In part one of this post, Cybersecurity 101: What Landlords Need to Know - Part 1, we examined the security risks that landlords face: from common misconceptions that hurt your security, to the biggest threats that demand your attention. In this post, we lay out a step-by-step plan to securing your daily life. Have a notebook and pen handy—you'll want to take notes.
Step 1: Create Stronger Passwords
You may have heard the term "passphrase." This is a lengthy password that may consist of a short, memorable sentence (including spaces) instead of a single word. An example would be "i love chocolate cake."
You should also incorporate as many letters, numbers, and symbols as each site or app allows. This way, "i love chocolate cake" becomes "1 l0v3 ch0c0l@73 c4k3!" Don't use any dictionary words or names unless they're part of a lengthy passphrase. Use a mix of capital and lowercase letters, "1 L0v3 Ch0c0l@73 C4k3!"
Be sure that you're not using one of these common passwords. Check out the article, How I'd Hack Your Weak Passwords for tips on common or predictable passwords to avoid. Keep in mind that hackers are using password cracking software to run through thousands of possible passwords each second.
Step 2: Don't Reuse Passwords
This is a step that everyone knows, but few people heed. We know it's tedious, but it's also the single most important step you can take in protecting your data. As we discussed above, when hackers gain access to one of your passwords, they have software that allows them to test it across all of your accounts, potentially enabling them to gain access to all of your information in one fell swoop.
Step 3: Use Password Management Software
This is the key to using different passwords across all sites and apps. A good password manager (our security expert recommends 1Password) will help you to create incredibly secure passwords and store them for use across all of your accounts, along with usernames, account numbers, and other pertinent information.
Step 1: Perform Software Updates ASAP
Update your software regularly across all devices that you own. It can be tempting to put off updates when you're busy, but keep in mind that new software versions often patch holes in their security. By saying "remind me later," you're choosing to continue using a weaker version, creating vulnerabilities in your security. This applies across your laptop, phone, tablet, and even your router.
Step 2: Invest in an Anti-Virus Solution
There are free antivirus solutions like AVAST and AVG for home use, but if you're ready to invest in a full security suite, our security expert suggests TrendMicro, BitDefender, Sophos, Symantec, and McAfee.
Step 1: Guard Sensitive Data
Restrict access to sensitive data (such as lease agreements, rental applications, and tax records) to as few people as possible.
Step 2: Don't Hold on to Records
Don't hold on to records any longer than you're legally required to. This significantly minimizes what could be stolen in the event of a breach.
Step 3: Encrypt Digital Data
Encrypt all digital data, and never share files containing personally identifiable information via unencrypted email.
Step 4: Store Your Data Off-Site
Back up your data to the cloud in case your network is compromised—and be sure to protect it with a strong password.
93% of the time, attackers take just minutes (or less) to compromise a system, and intruders are in your network for an average of 200 days before they're noticed. This makes it critically important to follow the steps below:
Step 1: Restrict Wireless Network Access
Don't let guests access the Wi-Fi network where your important files are stored. If you have frequent visitors who need your Wi-Fi password, create a separate guest network.
Step 2: Choose WPA2
Only use WPA2 networks—never WEP, according to our security expert.
Step 3: Change Default Passwords
Change the default password on your router. This is a surprisingly common oversight, but it's incredibly dangerous. You're essentially letting anyone access your network who bothers to test it.
Step 4: Have an Emergency Plan
In the event of a breach, be prepared to shut down your network immediately to keep an intrusion from spreading.
Will you use your personal smartphone, tablet, and laptop for work or acquire a second set of devices strictly for business use? Here are the considerations:
Pros of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
On one hand, using personal devices can increase productivity by allowing you to bring work and communication tools with you everywhere you go. In addition, it saves you the expense of buying a second set of devices.
Cons of BYOD
On the other hand, allowing sensitive data to live alongside your personal files and apps is a significant risk. You'll have to use your devices in a certain way, such as always using a six-digit passcode to unlock your phone.
Don't get caught up in the common misconception that your inbox doesn't contain anything sensitive. As we discussed in Cybersecurity 101: What Landlords Need to Know - Part 1, personally identifiable information (PII) like email addresses, full names, and billing addresses are extremely attractive to hackers. Here are the steps that you need to take to protect your messages from cybercriminals:
Step 1: Create Extra-Strong Passwords
According to our security expert, your email tends to be the center of all of your accounts. If it's breached, the rest of your accounts are at risk. Use the password tips that we recommended in the previous section to the max.
Step 2: Recognize Phishing Scams
Learn how to recognize and avoid phishing scams:
Hire IT and security contractors. They'll review any existing measures that you have in place, make recommendations on how to improve your security, and make any necessary upgrades that you can't take care of yourself. It's important to admit where your expertise may fall short in defending yourself against security breaches.
Investing in prevention efforts costs far less in the long-term than crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. Our security expert recommends forming a co-op with other landlords or small businesses and jointly hiring a staff of experts to attend to your issues.
We've all been inundated with headlines about cyberattacks in recent years, and it's simultaneously made us paranoid and complacent about our own security. There's a phenomenon known as "breach fatigue" that describes the way that our reactions to data breaches shift over time, gradually devolving from outright panic to apathy. We all have to consciously fight this instinct, because, as Consumer Affairs reminds us:
"Such an attitude only benefits the hackers. It's one thing to deal with breach fatigue by deciding 'To heck with these hackable credit cards, I'll just use cash,' but another matter entirely to deal with it by deciding 'I'll continue using credit cards, but I can't be bothered to check whether they've been breached or not.' Various forms of 'can't be bothered' fatigue is exactly what certain types of scammers count on to make their dishonest profits. [...] Yes, you're tired of all those reminders to inspect your credit card statements and look for fraudulent charges and change your account numbers and passwords every time a hacker might've seen the old ones. But hackers and scammers want you to feel this way. Their intention is to spy on or steal from you, and if you give in to breach fatigue, you'll only make it easier for them to succeed."