Cyber attacks can happen anywhere and everywhere, with SingHealth being the latest target. Thankfully, the information stolen was deemed as ‘basic demographic data’ by the authorities and thus, it is not a big concern. Besides the personal information authorities require from us, how can we better protect personal data in our daily lives? Learning how to protect our data when using the PC is one of the largest concern as we perform daily tasks on it. However, smart home devices such as baby monitors and Wi-fi routers (on top of tv consoles) are important as well.
Smart home devices serve as a convenient tool to manage your life. Be it setting an alarm for the next day, playing your favorite playlist or calling your loved ones, the smart home devices on the market can help you to multitask by simply giving a voice command while you cook or read a newspaper. Surveillance cameras for children are also another popular item for parents to monitor their child while they are away from home. However, all these devices are installed with built-in microphones or cameras, making your smart home vulnerable to privacy issues.
These are potential devices which hackers can gain access to and steal our information. With no know-how on protecting our data, we are vulnerable to cyber attacks. While these hacks are not foolproof, they act as a form of deterrent against any hacking attempts. Continue to read below to find out how you can better protect your data while using these three home devices.
PC Hacks: Online shopping and transactions
- Using secured networks. Only perform payment or transaction over a secured Internet connection. Do not pay or transfer money when using public Wi-fi as it is an open network which is unencrypted. With an unencrypted network, other users sharing the same network can view the sites that you are visiting and risk the possibility of hijacking your device.
- Always log out. First, do not allow the site to store your passwords or usernames for easy access. Next, do not simply close your browser but always remember to log out from the site especially when you are dealing with sensitive information such as making an online purchase. With the completion of these two steps, it means more hassle for you as you are required to enter the username and password each time you enter the site. However, without the stored information it ensures that the next user cannot enter the site as easily.
- Clear browser cache. What exactly is a cache? A website uses caching to improve the performance of the site by temporarily storing data so that the site does not need to re-download the information each time you visit the site. While a browser cache improves your web browsing experience, it can potentially make you vulnerable to hackers as sensitive information such as customer information or authentication information is stored. Thus, always clear your browser cache at the end of your web browsing to avoid your browser from retaining personal information. SImply go to the clear browsing data section and select Clear Cache. This not only clears the data you have input, it can also prevent the next user to authenticate him or herself as you if the PC is a public or a shared PC.
- Keep records and use a credit card. Store all records of your online purchase and transaction and compare them to bank e-statements each month. If you notice any discrepancies between your record and the e-statements, report it immediately to the bank issuing your card. It is also best to stick to one card for any form of monetary transaction so that it lessens the possibility of fraud on the other cards. Opt to use a credit card instead of a debit card as the bank can withhold payment once you notify them of suspicious transactions.
- Use two-factor authentication (2FA). Banks and Singpass, for example, are using 2FA for an added layer of protection. As users, we can incorporate 2FA while logging into other accounts as well with Google authenticator. Google authenticator works by prompting the user to enter a one-time password which is sent to his device after he logs in normally with a username and a password. This second step is to verify that it is the same person logging into the site. How to use it: Download the Google Authenticator app on your Android or iOS smartphone. If the site works with Google Authenticator, you will be prompted to scan the barcode to set up the 2FA. Once this is done, the next time when you visit the same site again, simply type in the 2FA code in the app and you’re in!
PC Hacks: Protection against Malware.
- Backup and more backups. Have both online and offline backup. In any case of malware attacks, you can recover your data through a hard-drive or online drives such as OneDrive or Google Drive.
- Stay up to date. Always make sure that your software is up to date. Newer versions are always upgraded with security measures, making them less vulnerable to malware attacks compared to the older versions.
- Activate Firewall. As with Wi-fi networks, it is a good idea to activate the firewall for your computer as it helps to block hacking attempts from malware or hackers trying to gain access to your computer at your study table.
- Install antivirus software. Do note that it is not simply installing an antivirus software. As with the viruses and malware that are becoming more sophisticated, your antivirus software has to be up to date as well to for it to protect your computer. Unsure of which antivirus software to install? Go over to this page for an updated list of antivirus software on the market today.
Smart home devices Hacks
- Checking for safeguards. Some manufacturers have safeguards such as ensuring that voice commands are only sent once the user has confirmed through a command phrase. Others may include the option to mute the device’s microphone when not in use. Some also give the user the option to review the history of their voice recordings. Remember to delete voice history regularly. For surveillance cameras, some send video recording routinely while others do so only when they are triggered by motion or sound. It is best to buy from reputable brands as they often do include safeguards or security like this even though it is not perfect.
- Selectively switch off functions of the device when home. Turn off the microphone of your smart home devices when there are conversations going on, whether you are talking to your family or to banks to settle some issues through the phone. Turn your camera so that it is facing the wall when you are home. This is to prevent any accidental recordings of activities that might infringe your privacy and personal information. Besides smart home devices, laptops with a front-rear camera can be hacked into remotely too with software. Simply paste a sticker to cover the camera when not in use.
- Don’t stick to the default. Change the default Wi-fi network name and password if you have not. A strong password should consist of at least six characters, with more characters being stronger. It should consist of letters in uppercase and lowercase, numbers and also symbols if the system allows. One suggestion is using your favorite quote or phrases.
- Turn it off. Make it a good habit to turn off your Wi-fi network when you are away from home. This prevents them from having the opportunity to hack into your Wi-fi network and reduces your chance of being targeted by hackers. Turn on your firewall for an added layer of protection. If you do not have a firewall, consider installing one to your router for protection against possible hacking attempts. If you are not sure whether your router has a firewall or not, check out this article to determine and how to turn it on if it’s not by default.
With these simple steps, take action today to better protect your data!