It's official - digitisation has taken over our lives. With there now being more mobile devices than humans on earth and even fridges and kettles being connected to the internet, it's sadly inevitable that malicious organisations will attempt to access our data.
Although the majority of hacks are aimed at businesses and large public bodies - just look at the hacks Ashley Madison and Carphone Warehouse have suffered this month alone - consumers need to step back and take stock of their cyber footprint.
With the amount of data we produce continuing to grow, below are five simple steps consumers can take to increase personal security.
1. Manage passwords
Astoundingly, despite all the expert warnings, the most commonly used password in the UK today is still "password". It does not take a genius hacker to crack that, so if you're sat at a machine which uses this password, the time has come to take the leap and change it. A hacker's first approach to cracking a password is probably going to be a dictionary attack, in which every word and common phrase in the English dictionary is tried repeatedly.
With that in mind, "London" or "data centre" are not passwords I would use and nor is "London data centre". The more character sets there are and the longer the password, the more secure it is. So including numbers instead of vowels for example is a simple way to increase the strength of your passwords at home and in the office. Just make sure it's memorable - the worst thing you can do is write your passwords down on a post-it note next to the machine for anyone to use.
2. In-house privacy
The average household is now home to 7.4 internet devices - on a side note, you have to feel sorry for the guy with 0.4 of an iPhone. It's now quite common that sharing networks are established, and although this is fine in the family home it can be disastrous in more open settings.
Using a shared open network while commuting to work or in student accommodation can leave devices open to breaches from even the least experienced of hackers. It's therefore vital consumers alter their device settings to ensure their files aren't available to anyone on the same network.
3. Evaluate your digital footprint
As the connected world continues to evolve, so do consumer needs so it's unsurprising certain websites fall by the wayside. Social media goliaths such as Myspace and Bebo, although still live, have fallen to the likes of Twitter and Facebook. Our digital footprints can't be completely erased but leaving personal data on stagnant profiles is asking for trouble.
Consumers must analyse their digital footprints, taking stock of any sites which host secure information which they don't use anymore. So whether it's shutting down your old accounts or removing details from online retailers so your card details aren't stored unnecessarily, it's an important step to take.
4. Download security patches
Although often irritating to see pop up on your screen at seemingly the worst possible moment, software patch updates are vital for consumer security. Ignoring the latest updates leave people vulnerable to data breaches as hackers are always on the look out for new ways in to popular software. This is especially true for operating systems, as leaving an age old OS on your laptop which has reached end of life could end in disaster as any potential weakness won't be repaired, leaving consumers open to mass breaches. It's key consumers get in the habit of installing updates at the earliest possible opportunity to combat the issue.
5. Backup your data regularly
This may seem like common sense, especially from someone who works in the data centre industry, but backing up your data is key. Using encrypted backup services makes it increasingly difficult for hackers to do any harm, while ensuring you are not at risk of losing precious data.
Having your data stored on a physical hard drive as well as in the cloud, like the hybrid cloud services offered within the data centre industry, will further secure your music, photos and personal information. After all, if it's good enough for the likes of Netflix and Facebook then it's good enough for consumers too.