How to protect yourself from hackers

Noel Nevshehir

Modern life is interconnected through the Internet — a global labyrinth of more than 15 billion devices and machines. Autonomous vehicles and navigation systems, critical infrastructure, online banking, TVs, wearable electronics, and your not-as-smart-as-you-may-think smartphone.

By 2020, the Internet of Things will integrate more than 50 billion electronic devices, further enabling hackers to infiltrate our electronic devices and computer networks. For companies, this massive connectivity of digital data and mobile devices spanning their entire operations and extended supply chains will open up an exponential number of entry points for spies engaged in corporate espionage.

Major targets will continue to include the usual suspects such as business and industry, government entities, academic and research and development institutions. Currently, all of these entities are relentlessly targeted by assorted rogues representing nation-states, business competitors, and delinquent thrill seekers worldwide. We now run the risk of computer networks remotely powering down our transportation infrastructure and sensor-driven pacemakers. According to an April report by Merrill Lynch Global Research, cybercrime costs the global economy about $575 billion annually.

Today, nearly every aspect of our personal and professional lives depends on a secure and stable cyberspace. Unfortunately, software providers do not take sufficient responsibility for the programs they develop for consumers to effectively combat intrusions. Hindering progress on this front is the general lack of encryption on the devices that billions of people now use.

Consequently, it is entirely incumbent upon you to take charge of defending yourself from prying eyes. Here are some obvious and perhaps not-so-obvious precautions everyone can take to mitigate their risk of having private data compromised.

■Constantly update your anti-virus software applications to recognize phishing scams and malware intrusions

■Install dual-factor authentication, biometric solutions and other data encryption software onto electronic devices

■Continually change passwords using a mix of 15-20 characters

■Monitor credit reports

■Get a risk assessment by an ethical hacker who can point out areas of vulnerability

■Avoid using shared public Wi-Fi networks (airports, coffee shops, etc.) that are targets for hackers

■Always back up files onto the cloud or external drive

■Prepare a strategy in advance to respond to a breach

You want to avoid being an easy mark in cyberspace by implementing measures noted above enough to frustrate the intruder to move on and jiggle someone else’s door instead.

Noel Nevshehir is director of International Business Services for Automation Alley.