New technology is being constantly developed, computers are becoming more powerful, and cybercriminals are getting even more ambitious and skilful.

One of the main threats that continues to evolve is hacking. Professional hacker gangs make millions each day targeting home users and corporations.

On top of this, there is an increasing issue with advanced persistent threats (APTs). These are agents working (officially or unofficially) for foreign governments/institutions. They attempt to obtain private documents such as emails, as well as patents, intellectual property, and contracts. Some countries are now even starting to use their cyber security capabilities to access the emails and communications of other country’s leaders.

One current example as to how hacking can cause damage is the Twitter/Bitcoin attack that occurred last week where hackers accessed the Twitter accounts of a number of high-profile individuals including Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, The accounts were used to send tweets requesting bitcoins be sent and Direct Messages were also compromised.

In addition to the above, it is alleged that Russian hackers attempted to steal research on a Coronavirus vaccines from a number of organisations in the US, UK, and Canada over the past few months.

So what are the main ways to protect yourself from hackers?

1. Update your Operating System and other key software frequently, and ideally automatically. This helps to make it harder for hackers to access your computer through vulnerabilities that they may have found in older versions of programs. Enable any Microsoft product updates so that all programs in the Office Suite will be updated together. Also, consider retiring any software that is known to be particularly susceptible to hacking, such as Java or Flash.

2. Use up-to-date security programs, such as anti-malware software. These use multiple technologies to protect against spyware, ransomware, and viruses, as well as giving you a firewall.

3. Don’t use open Wi-Fi on your router as this makes it easier for hackers to access. Use an encrypted password and consider upgrading your equipment every couple of years to reduce the chances of vulnerabilities being exposed. If someone else wants to use your Wi-Fi, many new routers allow you to give them segregated wireless access so your files and connection are protected.

4. Password protect all your devices. Lock your phone and set a short timeout. Use fingerprint lock, passkey, or swipe to login to your mobile devices and set up multi-factor authentication if possible.

5. Create difficult passwords, and make sure they are different for each service. Look into using a password manager such as LastPass or 1Password.

6. Come up with creative/nonsense answers to security questions. Your mother’s maiden name or your University can most probably now be found on Google so make it harder for attackers to guess. Just don’t forget your answers otherwise you will end up having to jump through hoops to regain access.

7. Practice smart emailing. Fake emails are becoming increasingly convincing. Some ways to check they are authentic include hovering over links to see their actual URLs, and verifying the company or individual’s name/email address. Awkward sentence structure and bad spelling are often a clue that an email is suspect. You can also Google the subject line – other people may have posted if they received a similar email and it turned out to be a scam.

8. Keep your most sensitive data off the cloud. The cloud is great for collaboration and sharing but you have little control over data stored there. If a cloud-system is hacked, you can’t do much about it. If you are in total control of where your data is, you can ensure it isn’t compromised.

9. If you are disposing of or selling hardware, make sure you remove all personal information from those devices. Consider using something like d-ban to erase your hard drive.