We connect to the internet through our devices. From mobile phones, laptops, iPods, smart appliances, etc. They enable us to share information in real-time instantly across the globe. But not everyone who uses the internet will play by the rules or have our best interests at heart. Stealing of important data, destruction of assets and modifications of records such as medical records can kill. For instance, a medical record of a patient altered by cybercriminals’, can lead the doctor to prescribe the wrong medicine.
We can liken cybersecurity to real-world security where we have fences, security locks, guard dogs and lots more. Likewise, on the internet, we must put in place cybersecurity measures to keep the virtual world safer.
The primary aim of cybersecurity is to guarantee confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data and the assets that carry this data. We explain these triads below;
- Confidentiality: This is the element of security that guarantees secrecy. Meaning no third party involvement. Only authorised individuals have access to information systems.
- Integrity: Protection of data and information systems from unauthorised changes or modifications. This element ensures that data and systems are reliable and accurate.
- Availability: This ensures authorised parties have timely access to data or systems.
Protecting your online privacy
Online privacy is a major problem in the virtual world. People’s data are being collected on the internet daily and used for several reasons. For instance, social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok. Millions of people use these platforms daily. These platforms track users’ activity and collect their data. Afterward, they use this information used to display adverts based on an individual taste. Remember, when you sign up on these platforms, you agree to their terms and conditions and which gives them the right to use the details.
Protecting your privacy, therefore, means keeping your sensitive data or information you’ve provided at the cause of being online.
Cybersecurity best practices
- Avoid links you know nothing about. Before you, sign-up on any website, ensure it has the padlock sign (shows the connection is secure) right to the side of the link tab. It’s basically an SSL certificate that tells the users’ the information provided on the website is encrypted and transmitted securely. Without that sign, whatever information you send to that website is just plain text and anyone can get access to that data.
- Beware of apps, you grant permissions. Have you ever installed an app, and it asks you for permission to use/access certain features or information on your smartphone? A lot of apps ask for such permission. If you’re not sure of these apps, there’s no need to give them access to any information. Some of these apps also run in the background.
- Limit the personal information you post on social media presence. We can use the settings on their platform to limit the information that goes out to the public and for that, we need to understand the privacy section very well and see all the permissions that are granted and you can turn off anyone you want.
- Use a strong password. I feel like this is probably the most overlooked one. Avoid simple passwords like phone numbers, date of birth, etc. According to a cybersecurity report, over 20 million people use 123456 as their password. Using a password generator can prove helpful with services like LastPass, which stores all your passwords with a master password can help.
- Clear cookies because they can breach your privacy. The cookies from the websites surf on the internet, stores on the computer and track any action that you’re taking on that website. A way to overcome this is to clear your cookies regularly.
ISPs and Virtual Private Networks: ISPs is an acronym for “Internet Service Providers” Popular examples in Africa are MTN, Vodafone, Safari, Airtel, etc. There are quite a few things we need to know about ISPs. Do you know that your internet service provider knows every site you visited? Yeah, it’s simple you have to go through them to access the internet. So it’s very easy for them to track your online activity. To protect yourself, you can use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) what a VPN does is that it catches that direct access that your ISP has to you and make your surfing on the internet anonymous.
In brief, beware of the information you share on the internet. Cybercriminals are constantly on the hunt for information. Always remember that the internet never forgets things. Once it’s posted, it is there forever, even if it is deleted.