Security is an ever changing target.
As technologies improve to help us maintain a higher level of security new methods are being developed to take advantage of those new processes.
Expecting our security posture to be strong as we stand still when it comes to that security is a self defeating effort.
Take our Microsoft Accounts as an example. Microsoft already monitors those accounts, which provide the core connectivity to everything we do and access with Microsoft, to make you aware if any attempts are made to access your account.
In the past we never knew if these were sophisticated attacks or just random but Microsoft has now decided to let us know if they determine these attacks are coming from hackers who are working for a nation state.
We’re taking this additional step of specifically letting you know if we have evidence that the attacker may be “state-sponsored” because it is likely that the attack could be more sophisticated or more sustained than attacks from cybercriminals and others. These notifications do not mean that Microsoft’s own systems have in any way been compromised.
According to Microsoft, this does not mean they will give is details on who is targeting our accounts however, by letting us know it is a more sophisticated type of attack, we can then take additional steps to protect our Microsoft Account and computer systems.
Microsoft recommends the following actions to help increase the security of your accounts and computers:
- Turn on two-step verification: This makes it harder for hackers to access your account even if they guess your password because if they try to sign in on a device Microsoft doesn’t recognize, we’ll ask for an extra security code (which you can get from a special app on your phone, sent to a different email address or via SMS text message).
- Use a strong password and change it often: Make sure your password contains a mix of letters, numbers and symbols, isn’t a complete word and is different than the password you use on other sites. Be sure to change your password often.
- Watch for suspicious activity on your account: The “Recent Activity” page on your Microsoft Account shows recent sign-ins and changes to your account, and allows you to let Microsoft know if you were not the person making these changes.
- Be careful of suspicious emails and websites: Don’t open emails from unfamiliar senders or email attachments that you don’t recognize. Be careful when downloading apps or files from the Internet, and make sure you know the source.
- Keep your computer software, including your Web browser, up to date and run an up-to-date anti-virus program: For Windows PCs, you should turn on Windows Update to ensure your PC and Microsoft software stay up to date. You should install a reputable anti-virus/ anti-malware software. Both Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 already include free anti-malware software called Windows Defender.
Of course, one other element of protecting yourself and your systems is smart computing habits. Engaging the gray matter between your mouse finger and brain is critical and, in my opinion, the most important aspect of security because even the most vigilant of us can still be caught off guard.
There is no reason to make it easy for the bad guys by making poor choices when we are using our computers because that will only open up the opportunities for our security to be broken.
What steps do you take to increase your own personal computing security?