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Gone are the days when antivirus software was enough to keep you safe online and in your inbox. Today, while anti-virus protection is still a useful tool (and you absolutely still need to have it), it’s insufficient to fully address the clear and present threats in today’s cyber-reality, particularly if you inadvertently invite an attack by downloading an infected file that was explicitly designed to bypass your security protocols.

Let’s be honest: the internet has brought numerous benefits to our lives, making it easier and faster to access information and connect with people all over the world. However, the same technology that has revolutionized the way we work and communicate also presents significant risks.

Cybercriminals are constantly developing new tactics and methods, including social engineering, zero-day exploits, and ransomware to evade detection and steal sensitive information and to exploit vulnerabilities in our devices, networks, and systems. That’s why it’s essential to adopt good cybersecurity habits and stay informed about the latest threats, and to ensure you are employing multiple layers of protection, such as firewalls, encryption, multi-factor authentication, and intrusion detection systems.

It’s also critical to remember that, when we talk about cybercriminals, we’re not necessarily talking about PEOPLE. There are people pulling the strings and writing the code, but the vast majority of attacks are coming from bots – and those bots will hammer away at vulnerabilities until they break through.

The event harsher reality is that, even with every tool in the toolbox, perfectly deployed, the best laid security plans can go completely sideways if we don’t break a few habits. These habits weren’t always dangerous – but they are now.

Break These Habits

Here are 5 habits you and your employees need to abandon immediately to avoid being hacked, whether on a personal computer, phone, or business laptop:

Number 1:
STOP downloading apps from unverified sources: The internet is full of tempting free apps, but hackers are experts at exploiting curiosity and creating “clickbait” (incredibly tempting links – think free gift cards or contests).

To prevent unauthorized app installations, configure your devices to block downloads from unverified sources. For mobile devices, only download apps from the official app store, where they are tested and must meet security and privacy requirements.

Business owners: It’s wise to restrict employees’ access on company devices, preventing them from downloading potentially harmful applications or files.

Number 2:
STOP browsing the web unprotected, particularly when downloading files: This is especially important when using public WiFi. Public establishments offering free internet access cannot guarantee a secure connection. Consult your IT provider about implementing endpoint (user devices like phones, laptops, desktops, tablets) protection solutions like VPNs, which can shield you from cybercriminals and block dangerous websites while on public WiFi.

Number 3:
STOP opening and downloading email attachments without caution: Phishing attacks remain the top method for hackers to infiltrate networks. Sophisticated attackers can hijack email accounts and send seemingly legitimate messages. Before opening or downloading any emailed files, ensure they were expected. It’s safer to use IT-managed file-sharing services like OneDrive, SharePoint, or Citrix ShareFile. If you have doubts about a file, contact the sender to verify its authenticity – BEFORE clicking to download it.

Number 4:
STOP downloading unnecessary “bloatware”: Legitimate apps may bundle unwanted applications or toolbars as sponsorships. To identify these, look for pre-selected checkboxes during installation. Take the time to read and review agreements before proceeding with app installations.

Number 5:
STOP downloading content from peer-to-peer file-sharing sites like BitTorrent, RARBG, or 1337x: These networks are often targeted by hackers who upload infected files for unsuspecting users to download. Even ads on these sites may be malicious. Don’t assume antivirus software alone will protect you.

Business owners: Share this information with your team for both work and personal devices. Then, consider scheduling a brief call to discuss implementing robust security systems that provide stronger protection against hackers and accidental downloads of malicious files by employees.