9 tips to secure your electronics

On the Internet, you are never 100% safe. This can be a frightening thought. But with people like Lilian Knippenberg, a cyber security expert for the municipality of The Hague, our online existence does feel like a much safer place. She is committed to our digital security. So how can you best protect yourself from data breaches, hackers, and other threats? Lilian has ten handy tips.

1. A secure password is half the battle

The first step to a secure online environment is to use a secure password. That password is generally long. The longer your password the better. For example, do not use one word, but use a whole sentence or have a long password generated.

2. Multifactor authentication

The second step for good security is multi-factor authentication. It is highly recommended to include multiple steps in your login process. For example, consider an additional security code, an external token, or even a text message.

3. Use a password manager

It is also important to use a different password on each website. For this, it is useful to use a password manager. For example, consider Apple's Keychain or the Google password manager. There are also independent parties such as Keypass or Lastpass. These managers can help you remember your passwords as well as generate secure passwords.

An additional nice touch with Google's password manager, for example, you can receive notifications. That happens when any of your passwords have been involved in a data breach. Then Google advises you to change your password. It is a handy tool!

4. Stay sharp for phishing emails

What we see a lot of these days is phishing. They are types of emails containing a link, asking you to click on that link and then fill in your information. These are becoming more realistic by the day and are sent to hundreds of people. To protect yourself against that, using multi-factor authentication is a very good security measure. It keeps the attacker from getting your data right away.

Not expecting an e-mail? Then be extra careful. When in doubt, check the sender's address to see if it is legitimate. Also, a bank will never send emails asking you to log in. So definitely don't fall for this!

5. Remove unused apps and restrict access

Another tip from Lilian is to have as few apps as possible on her phone. Often your phone or tablet is full of apps, that you don't even use. These apps may be pulling in all kinds of data in the background. So get rid of them and see if you can also restrict access to certain apps in your settings. This way, you can also ensure that less of your data is being stored.

6. Avoid public Wi-Fi networks

Anything you can think of that happens to your data can happen on public Wi-Fi networks. Companies can pull in a lot of data when they enter these networks. Often this is without malicious intent. For example, for commercial marketing purposes. It is difficult to find out exactly what data is being retrieved.

Public Wi-Fi networks do not have to comply with certain security regulations, there is a chance that the public Wi-Fi network is not the problem, but it is susceptible to certain attacks. For example, there are attacks known as the "Men in the middle" hack. It involves someone getting between you and the Wi-Fi network with a device. That allows the person in question to capture all your traffic. That is how the person finds out passwords or personal information.

There are many "Countermeasures" that companies can take, but these guidelines are not mandatory. So it is up to the company whether it wants to follow these security standards or not.

7. Make sure you have the latest software updates

All products that use the Internet are at risk of a cyber-attack. So this includes your car or your bicycle. Manufacturers do a lot to prevent that. Just think about electric cars. These go through a robust cyber security inspection and thus are certainly not an easy target for hackers.

Furthermore, many devices do not have such an inspection. For example, toys or smart thermostats, that can be connected to the Internet. We call this the IOT; the Internet Of Things. Generally, you need to secure these devices properly yourself or make sure they stay up-to-date with the latest software updates.

8. It can happen to anyone

Stay critical and when in doubt, always check twice. It really can happen to anyone. Lilian also shares that she has been targeted by attackers who tried to gather her banking information over the phone. She always tries to be very careful about it but also says "If you are tired at the end of the workday, you just click on links earlier. You can never completely avoid it." So if you at least apply multiple security measures, such as multi-factor authentication, you are already very well on your way to protecting yourself online.

9. Read up on your digital security

"There are also lots of accessible books on information security," Lilian shares. She has two books she recommends. One titled 'Ik weet je wachtwoord' by Daniël Verlaan with lots of tips to protect yourself. Also, the book by Maria Genova 'Komt een vrouw bij de hacker' is very accessible and fun book to start with.

Are you also interested in an internship in cyber security? Then quickly go to the vacancy page on the website or call the number of the municipality of The Hague. After all, they are always looking for interns!

Published on Wednesday 19 October, 2022 / Security