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Expert Advice on How Consumers Can Best Protect Against Being Hacked

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Expert Advice on How Consumers Can Best Protect Against Being Hacked

August 01, 2016
By Peter Bernstein
Senior Editor

This is going to be short and sweet.  Even though I write about online security, unfortunately almost around the clock given how fast and furious cyber attacks of all varieties are coming, the fact of the matter is that I am constantly looking to the good guys for advice on how to protect my personal interactions when I am not in business mode.  In short, what are best practices when using my mobile personal devices so they, and all of my personal information they contain, do not get compromised? 

Recently Chief Security Evangelist at Alert Logic, Stephen Coty, has been spreading the word on extra steps all of us can and should take, or at least consider, to protect ourselves from hackers.  And with the two biggest hacking events coming up, Black Hat 2016  and DefCon 2016 now here, as Coty notes, “the brightest minds in cyber security don’t step foot onto the conference floor without implementing a few basic security precautions.” 

He goes on to identify three add-on behaviors for the majority of us that are above and beyond having a good anti-virus on your device. They obviously are preventive steps but they can at least make hackers looking for a quick victim to exploit look elsewhere.  Coty says: 

  1. Turn off your frequency –After using mobile payments like Apple and Android (News - Alert) Pay, consumers should turn off their NFC settings so that the phone no longer broadcasts its frequency, which can be easily uncovered and end up right into the hands of hackers.  
  2. Keep Bluetooth off –Keeping Bluetooth turned on is one of the quickest and easiest ways a person can get hacked. Make sure that Bluetooth is enabled sparingly and only when actually being used, so cybercriminals have a harder time breaking into devices and accessing personal data.
  3. Consider using Mi-Fi –If consumers are really serious about safeguarding their laptops and phones, they can purchase their own person Wi-Fi enabled broadband devices, called M-Fis, to connect to the internet. This way, they avoid the potential of connecting to a bogus network or Wi-Fi hot spots that are being crawled by hackers.

Depending on your level of paranoia—FYI mine is pretty high thanks to speaking with so many industry experts and reading the daily headlines—recommendations #1 and #2 make a lot of sense and are easy enough.  And, I will admit that they have not been my best practices but now will be. 

As to the Mi-Fi recommendation, that does seem a bit extreme given the convenience of Wi-Fi as an alternative to a big data bill from your mobile service provider.  After all, life is about tradeoffs, and, at least for the moment, the idea of not being able to use Wi-Fi when traveling abroad or one of the many calling apps, which allow you to call home and talk as long as you like without roaming charges, is something I am not willing to give up.  

Edited by Alicia Young

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