Bad Habits on the Internet and six key steps for better protection

Sundar Balasubramanian

It is alleged that over 50 years ago, the Internet was started. Nowadays we cannot live without the Internet, a basic resource among the new generations. Remember looking for information in an encyclopedia or going to a travel agency to buy a plane ticket or make a hotel reservation? It seems like ages ago, but the truth is that the network of networks has changed the way we do many tasks and has opened the doors to new possibilities that allow us, for example, to work from anywhere or make a bank transfer from our phone in just one click.

Unfortunately, this relentless evolution is also present in the multiple threats posed by cybercriminals. We have moved on from viruses distributed on floppy disks and Morris, the first worm to infect the Internet in 1988, to the emergence of Trojans, spyware and ransomware, the main protagonists of today’s cybercrime scene. And unfortunately, internet users still repeat basic mistakes such as using weak passwords, avoiding updates, or browsing unsecured pages that open the doors of our devices to cyber threats, increasing cyberattacks.

According to the Security Report 2023 from Check Point® Software Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ: CHKP), a leading global cyber security specialist provider, cyberattacks have increased by 38% in 2022 compared to the previous year, with an average of 1,168 attacks per week per organization and a situation that looks set to continue to worsen over the coming years. Here in India, an organization is being attacked on average 2036 times per week in the last 6 months, compared to 1206 attacks per organization globally, whilst 80% of the malicious files in India were delivered via Email in the last 30 days according to Check Point’s Threat Intelligence Report. Nielsen’s India Internet Report 2023, reported that India had 700 million or more active Internet users aged two years and older as of December 2022 with rural India having 425 million registered internet users, almost 44 percent higher than in urban areas.

All of this makes it clear that we need to be prepared to face these threats, which is why Check Point Software is taking this World Internet Day as an opportunity to remind us of the “bad habits” that we continue to maintain and that affect our digital security:

  • Neglecting passwords: this is one of the most common mistakes, and yet one of the practices that most affects the maintenance of proper cybersecurity. We all find it easier to recycle passwords and use the same one for work and personal emails, but we are putting important data at risk. It is also very common to share them – Netflix or Spotify passwords, for example – and oftentimes we write them down or send them in a message or email to family or close friends. This reality translates into millions of users who every year see their accounts breached because they do not take care of their passwords. To avoid this, it is advisable to create secure passwords, with at least 12 characters and a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Likewise, it is always recommended to update them every few months, and not to reuse them on several different platforms or accounts.
  • Update, update, update: all systems and devices have regular updates designed not only to improve or correct usability, but also to apply patches for possible vulnerabilities. The message to update often appears at inconvenient times or when we do not have a Wi-Fi connection and we usually end up postponing or even ignoring its installation, unconsciously leaving an open door for cyberattacks. Just by keeping our devices up to date, we can avoid many of the vulnerabilities that can occur.
  • Falling prey to disinformation: while most cyberattacks today focus on data theft, there has recently been a growth in hacktivist practices and other state-related threats. This type of practice often includes the distribution of disinformation with fake news or biased and incomplete messages that prey on the emotional side of users to generate discord. For this reason, it is advisable to use several sources when informing ourselves, as well as to check any news or chain message before falling into practices such as mass dissemination. One of the main pillars of Internet security is common sense.
  • Using free wireless networks: to avoid using up your own data, it is increasingly common to surf between hot spots and free Wi-Fi networks in restaurants, airports, train or metro stations, hotels and even public or private transport. However, security researchers have demonstrated on numerous occasions that these types of wireless networks have little or no security. It is advisable not to access an unknown network, but if you must, limit your use to basic browsing, avoid entering passwords or using sensitive applications such as payment platforms or banking access.
  • Accepting privacy policies and permissions without reviewing them: who ever reads the terms and conditions of data use? These lengthy and difficult to understand texts encourage most people to accept all the terms of use for any application without further ado. While this allows us to start enjoying them more quickly, it can lead to a serious security problem and even a breach of all our data. On the one hand, cybercriminals often use some popular applications or programs to spread their malicious code, while some malicious developers hide some clauses for the transfer of permissions to collect, store and even trade with this data. By taking a few minutes to review the permissions and conditions before installing a program, we can avoid falling victim to deception or exposure of our personal information.
  • Browsing and trusting unsafe websites: a way to identify this type of fraudulent website is to look for small errors such as typos, poorly written text or the presence of misleading or poor-quality images. However, the most effective method is undoubtedly the analysis of the URL, with security indicators such as SSL certificates (indicated by the presence of a padlock next to the web address); or alerts, such as the presence of irregular characters or subdomains.

Although the Internet is still considered a fairly young tool, internet connectivity has developed to such a pace that with more Internet users and connected devices, the attack surface and targets expands as well,” explains Sundar Balasubramanian, Managing Director at Check Point Software Technologies, India & SAARC. Once again, we must call for education and common sense, as education and knowledge are key to achieving a safe digital space for everyone”.

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