- Stay vigilant about phishing attempts and potential cyberthreats.
- Implement safety measures, from streamlining software updates to deploying secure password managers and cybersecurity systems.
- Use device tracking solutions to locate and secure lost items.
Recently I got an email inquiry from a potential new client. It was vague, from a non-business email address, the enquirer had the same name as a British pop star and a few other references felt slightly off. I replied with some simple questions and the quick response ignored my questions and insisted I click on a link to access his business information. I discussed my concerns with colleagues and it turns out they’d all received a similar email. We agreed it was full of red flags; he was probably a cybercriminal phishing and if I’d clicked on the dodgy link, a troublesome virus would have wreaked havoc on my computer.
While I’m not an expert in cybersecurity, I try to stay abreast of relevant developments and adhere to policies and practices to avoid falling victim to a cyber incident and improve my cybersecurity awareness. Here are some tools and strategies I’ve adopted for managing software updates, cybersecurity and device tracking.
Managing software updates
I always opt to use the latest software version available and have automatic updates enabled. Because most of the software I use is online, updates happen in the background and many times the user experience is so streamlined I barely notice a change. Periodically, I review and uninstall old versions of the few pieces of desktop software I use.
When preparing to travel, I update everything on my devices. Whenever I touch my rarely used Asus laptop, it wants to install tons of updates. My Google Pixel 4 XL automatically updates periodically, but I proactively push awaiting updates when preparing to travel. This process ensures updates happen over secure wi-fi networks and minimises additional data charges.
“When preparing to travel, I update everything on my devices. This process ensures updates happen over secure wi-fi networks and minimises additional data charges.”
While I intend to store everything in the cloud, some data inevitably finds its way onto my desktop. I connect my Ruby Red 4TB Seagate Backup Plus Drive to my PC on the first day of each month to capture any changes. The use of this drive is straightforward, with the process taking roughly 20 minutes and it doesn’t cause any noticeable slowdown on my end. Though I still need to test if the backup actually works; my bad. As I wrote this article, I realised there must be a more efficient way to do this. So, I’ve installed the Google Drive app and will set it up to back up files automatically.
When protecting against suspicious activity, Windows has in-built security features providing safeguards against viruses and threats, along with firewall and network protection. I can enable additional features, such as blocking unwanted apps or websites. For an extra layer of protection, I use ESET Internet Security to scan my computer and websites, removing threats, blocking malicious content and providing anti-phishing protection.
Rather than have passwords on Post-it notes around the edge of my monitor or books embossed with the title ‘Passwords’, I use an online password manager. It’s synced across all devices to create complex passwords,securely store them and auto-fill for quick, convenient access. I can share online access with virtual teammates without disclosing the password.
It’s crucial to have oversight across access to passwords and to be able to change or revoke access quickly. If I were a larger business, I’d look at something like Practice Protect, a security and password platform solution built for accounting firms.
I used a popular online password management solution, but after several publicised security breaches I switched to 1Password. One of the neat features is Travel Mode, which removes folders from your computers and mobile devices, except those marked as safe for travel. Yes, I’ve read travelmares of people passing through customs and security wanting full access to their devices.
Google Chrome frequently asks me to remember passwords, which I decline, because I like the independence of switching to different browsers. With a password management solution, my grey matter only needs to worry about storing a single master password. When I need to remember a password, I opt for phrases like $topbyThe$p1ceG1rls. See how I got numbers, symbols, and upper- and lowercase letters to create a complex password that’s easy to remember?
Harnessing smart device tracking apps
I’m the queen of losing things and wasting time searching for lost items. Fortunately, I married a boy scout and he wanders the world finding everything I’ve absent-mindedly misplaced.
‘Hey, Google, ring Heather’s phone’ is a phrase I say daily to help me locate my phone. I also use the Google Find My Device app to find, lock or erase my device. I can search for a device from a browser (google.com/android/find) and make it play noise, helping me track it down.
I’ve attached Tile Mate Bluetooth tracker devices to both sets of keys. They connect to the Tile app and, surprisingly, it works both ways: the tracker device can activate the phone app and vice versa. Tiles have a three-year non-replaceable battery, so writing this article prompted me to realise my Tiles were outdated and I bought replacements. I also drop them in luggage for added reassurance while travelling. Any solution that relieves some of my executive function burdens so I can focus on what’s important is good.
A duty of care
I actively use updated technology, strong passwords and secure wi-fi (hot-spotting or a virtual private network – or VPN – for public wi-fi). While prevention is better than cure, cyber risk insurance is baked into my business insurance. I also found the Australian Government Cyber Security Assessment Tool a useful audit of resources for managing cybersecurity risks.
As an accountant, I’m seen as a custodian of valuable data, making me a prime target for cybercriminals. Every day another scam or security breach fills my newsfeed. They are a scary reminder to be constantly alert and stay informed about current cyber hacking trends and best-practice activities to minimise unwanted and stressful disruptions.