Best Practices for Threat and Vulnerability in an Online Environment

What are the best practices for threat and vulnerability in an online environment? If this is a question you haven’t asked yourself lately, you should.

Understanding the best practices for threat and vulnerability in an online environment is essential. Every time you get online, whether to check social media, post a selfie, or send an email, you are putting yourself and your information at risk. Even worse, with the advent of the smart home, where you live, all your devices in it are also at risk.

Best Practices for Threat and Vulnerability in an Online Environment: FAQ

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Before you can understand what the best practices for threat and vulnerability in an online environment are, you need to understand more about these terms and why they are essential to know.

What is a threat?

What is a vulnerability?

Who is really at risk?

 What do you need to secure?

Smart Home Devices

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If you have a smart home device, you need to ensure your wireless connection and your devices are secured. Smart home devices allow you to turn on lights, set your thermostat, unlock your door, and even watch what is going on inside your home. Improperly secured smart home devices can give a malicious user unprecedented access into your home.

Understanding Online Threats and Vulnerability

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Before you can understand how to protect yourself against online threats and vulnerabilities, first you need to understand what those threats are and how they work.

Attack vectors


Common types of attacks

Social engineering


Best Practices for Threat and Vulnerability in an Online Environment

Now that we have covered what threat and vulnerabilities are, here are some of the best practices you can implement to help protect yourself and your data.

Use a Strong Password and Change it Regularly

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Create a strong password that you can remember and change it regularly, about every three months. Strong passwords are ideally at least eight characters long, with upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special symbols like question marks and exclamation points.

If you find it difficult to make and remember strong passwords, using a password manager like LastPass may be helpful. A password manager remembers your passwords for you, keeping them encrypted so that only you can access them. Of all the best practices for threat and vulnerability in an online environment, this is the one that is most within your control and the most neglected. Don't be that guy.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

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Whenever an online account offers two-factor authentication, enable it. You will often find two-factor authentication on websites like Google and Microsoft, bank websites, video games, and more.

Two-factor authentication helps keep your information secure by verifying your identity using two different forms of authentication. That usually includes your password and a temporary, randomly generated number code. This number code typically comes from an authenticator from a phone-based app. Another way to get the code is through email or a text message from a provider.

Secure Your Home Network

Home networks are ubiquitous, thanks to the availability of high-speed Internet and multiple devices in a household that uses wifi. One of the weakest parts of a home network is also the most important: the router.

Wireless routers come pre-configured from the factory with default settings. These defaults make setup easy but are also a huge security hazard.

Always change your router’s default settings during setup. Be sure to change the router name, password, and also the default address and network address range. Heimdal Security has an excellent guide for further information on how to secure your home network.

Keep All Your Devices and Software Updated

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Regularly updating your computers, smartphones, and other online devices is one of the easiest and most important ways you can help keep your information safe. Updates often include security patches which are code updates that fix any recently discovered vulnerabilities that the software may have. It is one of the easiest best practices for threat and vulnerability in an online environment to stay on top of.

Use Antivirus Software

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For every online device you have, whether computer, smartphone, or tablet, install and use trusted antivirus software. Windows comes with its own antivirus program, Windows Defender, but there is also other antivirus software that you can download. Antivirus programs are also available for iOS and Android devices.

Do You Need an Antivirus for Mac Computers?

A common myth is: “Macs don’t get viruses.” However, the idea that Macs are somehow impervious to viruses is flat out wrong.

Computer viruses can infect any device, provided the device can run the program. The reason behind the myth that Macs do not get viruses is that viruses are usually for the far more ubiquitous Windows-based operating systems. It's a numbers game. Hackers program for the platform where their virus has the largest possible number of computers to infect.

However, as Macs continue to rise in popularity, so too has the number of viruses for Mac OS been rising. In 2018, Malware Bytes reported that there was a 270% increase in Mac-targeted viruses in 2017.

Strictly speaking, Macs do not necessarily need additional antivirus software according to Macworld, a leading Apple magazine. However, as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It is better to invest in an antivirus for your Mac versus trying to clean up any damage done by a virus that somehow slipped past any preliminary defenses.

Turn Off Your Bluetooth

Criminals can gain access to your smartphone through an open Bluetooth connection. Once they gain access, they can do things like accessing your call history, download files, upload malware, or even gain access to your personal accounts.

The simplest way to prevent this type of unauthorized access is to disable Bluetooth while you are not using it.

Use a VPN When Connecting to Public WiFi Networks

Public wifi networks in coffee shops, airports, and other public places are very convenient for staying connected on the go. Unfortunately, public wifi is notoriously insecure and are havens for hackers looking for an easy target.

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection when you are using a public wifi network. A VPN encrypts your data while you are online, helping to keep your data safe from any prying virtual eyes. That is definitely one of the best practices for threat and vulnerability in an online environment.

Set and Secure

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The best practices for threat and vulnerability in an online environment involve being aware of the existence of online threats and planning accordingly. In general, being safe online means being proactive about making your network and devices a less desirable target. It's like the old saying: You don't have to run faster than the zombie chasing you. Just be faster than the guy next to you. After that, employing common sense when it comes to where and when you share your information is another key to helping keep it safe.

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