Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
You’ve likely heard about the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities that were revealed in early 2018. They affect nearly every computer chip that has been manufactured in the last 20 years, and exploit fundamental processes that computer chips perform constantly. Thanks to these vulnerabilities, hackers have the potential to gain access to all kinds of data buried deep on your device’s hard drive.
Spectre and Meltdown were a major wake-up call for tech manufacturers, and they’ve been scrambling to fix these flaws ever since. Fortunately, these companies have released, and continue to release, security patches to help combat these vulnerabilities head on. Google has been the most recent company to address the threat with the Chrome OS 66 update released in late April 2018, which promises that “all Chrome OS devices are now protected against Meltdown.”
Although big companies are working to curtail these security threats, it’s still crucial to follow cybersecurity best practices to protect yourself online. Here are a few things you can do to keep your data safe in the wake of vulnerabilities like Spectre and Meltdown.
1. Create difficult passwords or use a password manager.
First and foremost, don’t use easy or simple passwords. Never use personal information, such as your address, phone number or the name of your spouse or child as your password. This information is scarily easy to obtain – think of what you share on Facebook – and hackers know where to look. If you want to create your own passwords, use long phrases with a mixture of numbers, symbols and capitalized letters.
If you’re tired of memorizing passwords, find a popular password manager, such as LastPass, 1Password or Dashlane to keep strong, encrypted passwords. As an added bonus, you’ll only have to remember one password for the manager itself, as opposed to every password for every site you use.
2. Always update your computer and web browser.
We’ve all experienced it: You’re on your computer browsing the web, working on a project, or watching Netflix when you’re prompted to update your system. Rather than ignore or snooze the prompt, find some time in the day to update your computer or web browser when you get notified.
Check your computer system or your browser settings to make sure your system is completely up-to-date. They may be an interruption, but these updates protect you from serious threats.
3. Don’t use public Wi-Fi.
Connecting to free, public Wi-Fi essentially gives hackers the keys to your personal data kingdom. Hackers can create real-looking, free Wi-Fi networks to trick people to join. Once users join these “networks” the hacker can see absolutely everything you do online. Sent an email? The hacker can read it. Doing some online shopping? The hacker has your Amazon login credentials and credit card information. Any information you share or access on these networks goes through the hacker first.
If you absolutely must connect to a (legitimate) public Wi-Fi network, run your connection through a virtual private network like NordVPN or TunnelBear to encrypt your web traffic.
4. Monitor your records.
Regardless of whether you have been hacked or not, it’s important to check in on your credit scores from time to time. Check for suspicious activity, such as new credit cards, increased debt usage, and so on. You can also run a public records search on yourself to make sure everything is accurate. Hopefully, you’ll never come across a situation in which someone has stolen your identity. If, however, this does happen, it’s better to catch it now rather than when you’re preparing to take out a loan or buy a house.
It’s important to keep your guard up when you’re online, and pay attention to news about new security threats and breaches. Stay vigilant, and be careful about how you share, store and access your personal information on the internet.