Tips to protect yourself against hackers, advice from leading experts

By Aubrey Turner
For the Prosper Press
Hands type on a computer keyboard in Los Angeles. A personal cybersecurity clean up should involve evaluating all your passwords, updating your software and taking stock of exactly where all your personal information is stored. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File) ORG XMIT: NYBZ240

Cyber security is an ever-changing field.  As technology advances, the ways in which hackers are able to access personal and corporate information continues to grow.  Leading experts and Microsoft, RAND Corporation and a former member of the U. S. Defense for Cyber Policy gave a tutorial on how to protect oneself against cyber attack. 

This presentation, given to the National Press Foundation, emphasized the importance of local journalists remaining educated and writing about new ways for their readers to protect against cyber attack.  While national stories about large businesses being attacked with ransomware will get coverage, attacks on individual’s computers and smartphones are common and costly to the individual.  “It is important to get this information to readers so that they can keep their information safe,” Todd Helmus of the RAND corporation said.

Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Security, Compliance and Identity Vasu Jakkal spoke about the first steps of protection against cyber security.  “First, we need people to use a variety of passwords, including letters, numbers, and a symbol,” Jakkal said.  “Having more complex passwords is a deterrent for hackers.  Additionally, do not use the same password for every application and email.  If a hacker gains access to one password, either through hacking you or a corporation, you do not want them to be able to access everything.”  

“Second, use the Cloud whenever possible,” Jakkal said. “Having your data stored in another location will give you the ability to access it easily if something does happen.  Limited Cloud storage is available through Microsoft.  Every layer of the Cloud has security in it, as well as a team that monitors security threats.  What we have for our company at Microsoft in security measures is offered to our customers.  We constantly monitor over 140 threat groups all the time.”   

“Third, be sure to update your software,  Jakkal said.  “The only way software corporations can help you is if you are using up to date software.  Fourth, use two step authentication verification. In other words, use both a phone number and a password for your email.  Microsoft and others will automatically request that you use two step authentication but you are able to skip this step.  Please do not skip it.  We are working hard to help you protect your information but we need you to do your part as well.”

A person pressing a digital padlock.

Depending on the amount of access available online, people and businesses may choose to purchase identity theft and cyber security insurance.  “Presume that your information will be breached at some point,” Jakkal said.  “What do you need to do to keep your information safe?  We all need to be proactive but the hackers are developing new tools all the time.  Do what you can to protect yourself but presume that some of your information will be leaked.”   

“It is so easy for people to get attacked, and then have malware on their computer,” Jakkal said.  “Someone gets an email and clicks on the link.  That is all it takes to leak all of your information to hackers.  We all have a responsibility to be mindful of this and this is why education about cyber security  is so important.    Even with antivirus software, we are not able to download a program on our computer and be safe.”  

“We have 600,000 customers who trust us,” Jakkal said.  “In 2020, Microsoft protected seven billion attacks on devices and thirty billion attacks on email.  We are working hard to protect our customers.  We need to continue to have students focus on this type of work as they go through high school and college because this industry needs quality employees protecting us.”

“I encourage people to use the might of all these innovations,” Jakkal said.  “Hackers do not break into your system, they log in.  People need to be aware of this and keep their information secure.  People need to realize the threat and continue to learn how to protect themselves.”  

The Biden administration has made cyber security a priority of this administration.  Information about this policy, the funding, and next steps is available in a Fact Sheet at WhiteHouse.gov