You are most definitely aware of the spike in scamming activities lately in Zimbabwe. It is as if the moment we stepped into 2021, things took a sharp ascent in that regard. Though there are many contributing factors to that trend, one of them is the rise in digital activities in Zimbabwe. Literally, everything is now digital from basic transactions to accessing information (i.e. being on the internet and social media). I believe this has created the necessary backdrop for scammers and fraudsters to target unsuspecting victims. That is why hacking has become so rampant; I have noticed that it is now commonplace to see someone posting about their social media accounts being hacked. In this article, I shall share with you some ways you can use to protect yourself against hacking.
Restrict Physical Access And Use Strong Passwords
Access to your devices must start by being physically restricted. Do not let your devices be easily accessible to anyone. Sometimes people leave their gadgets to be charged somewhere in their absence. That might not be a wise thing to do because you do not know what might be done to your device in your absence. Next up, wherever possible you must employ the use of PINs or passwords. It is equally as important to ensure you come up with passcodes that are not easy to figure out.
Let us consider an EcoCash account PIN for instance. Most people make the mistake of using easy to guess passwords. I know most people use years e.g. birth year – I know people mostly do that for ease of recalling. However, it is best to use strong PINs e.g. 9710 might be perfect if it is not related to any of your personal details. When it comes to passwords you must use strong passwords. An example of a strong password is Xtant@#2196. Such a password is difficult for someone to guess or decipher. It is also smart to not use the same password everywhere.
You can augment all this by installing firewalls, antispyware, antiviruses on your PCs and mobile devices. This will add extra layers of protection against hackers. If you do not know you can seek professional help from IT specialists.
Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi
Many of you love to use public Wi-Fi, especially free Wi-Fi. Many of you regularly access Wi-Fi at tertiary learning institutions because it is free. Public Wi-Fi is usually not secured and is an easy target for hackers. It is very easy for hackers to gain access to your PC or smartphone if you are logged on to an unsecured public Wi-Fi. Be wary of this and ensure you only connect to Wi-Fi that is secure. Another thing, it is wise to not do transactions such as online banking using public Wi-Fi. Your personal data can end up in the wrong hands. If you know that hacking for financial crime is the topmost goal of most hackers you would not take this lightly.
Still on Wi-Fi; many of us now have Wi-Fi at home and so on. Invest in securing your network because you can also become an easy target. Find out from your ISP how best you can secure your network. If ever a hacker were you to gain access to your Wi-Fi, you would be done for.
Be Wary Of Random Links When Online
When surfing the internet it is quite common to see random links popping up. They can even be in the form of email attachments or on WhatsApp groups. Good examples are those links mentioning that you will get free data and the like. It is advisable to not just click on suspicious links online. Clicking such links usually gives hackers access to your PC or your smartphone. The unfortunate thing about links is that you might never notice what would have happened the moment you click them. Lately, we have been grappling with the EcoCash and WhatsApp fraud that has been ongoing. You might never know that maybe someone’s identity was stolen through such links.
The SOS (Switch Off Switches) Principle
Earlier in high school and I learnt a powerful principle from my woodwork classes. Whenever we would go to the workshop, our teacher would always emphasise this SOS principle. Whenever you are not using a machine that is powered somehow you must switch it off. That was to safeguard us against possible harm and all. The same principle also applies in this subject. Whenever you are not using a PC or a smartphone it is advisable, wherever possible, to switch off switches i.e. switching off the data connection, Bluetooth, GPS or switching the device altogether. This will make you inaccessible to any hacker attempt. As a rule of thumb, do this when going to bed or when away from your devices for a significant amount of time.
Use Two-Step Or Two-Factor Verification
Most platforms you use, e.g. WhatsApp, now have this feature. It adds an extra layer of security and you would do well to ensure it is activated. A quick example is WhatsApp; in a recent article I did I said the following: “If you go to your Settings on WhatsApp, then Account, then Two-step verification, you will probably notice that it is not enabled for some of you. You must enable it for your WhatsApp account to be more secure. If it is not enabled then you are vulnerable to being hacked.”
Remember social media is a great place to be and at times we lose sight of certain things. Do not give out too much information about yourself online. This somewhat makes it easier for hackers to figure you out if ever they want to target you. Do not forget to be critical at all times and not be easily gullible. Often time people fall prey to hackers because they are quick to embrace offers, requests, and so forth without really questioning authenticity.