With data breaches and hacks increasing every year, cybersecurity is becoming a trending topic. Media outlets frequently report on cyber attacks that affect major companies like Facebook, Yahoo, and Marriott, inciting conversations about the importance of using brands that implement measures to protect consumer data.

However, rarely do media outlets talk about the steps someone should take to safeguard their personal information when there's an emergency situation that's affecting the whole world. But did you know that hackers use crises to steal people's data?

When there's a global pandemic, for example, hackers create websites to showcase a map that pinpoints impacted areas around the world. Then, they use the websites as a front to steal people's passwords, user names, credit card numbers, and other relevant information that's on their browsers.

People might wonder how hackers are able to pull off such a sophisticated strategy, but the answer is simple. Websites can prompt consumers to download an app to stay updated on the emergency situation, but the program simply allows hackers to generate and install a malicious binary file on victims' computers so that they can steal individuals' information. The cyber attack happens right in front of consumers who are concerned about a global pandemic and unaware of the other threat that's lurking nearby.

The best steps to prevent a cyber attack

No matter the circumstance, consumers need to do everything it takes to safeguard their personal information. However, this fact should be underscored when there's an emergency situation. Without the right measures in place, hackers can easily take advantage of someone's fear, worry, and desire for updates to accomplish their own criminal schemes.

But for consumers who want to make sure their information is safe, how are they supposed to move forward if they don't know the basic steps to implement? Cybersecurity has unfortunately become an unapproachable subject, despite the predictions that damages from cybercrimes will reach $6 trillion by 2021, costing more than natural disasters do in a single year.

Fortunately, cybersecurity is not as ambiguous as it initially seems. In fact, there are extremely simple but powerful measures that consumers can put into place to protect themselves from falling victim to a cyberattack even if it happens during a global crisis.

1. Anticipate phishing attacks

While consumers should anticipate a phishing attack on any given day, they should especially be alert when there's an emergency situation at hand. During a global crisis, most businesses send emails to update their customers on how they're handling the circumstance, making it the perfect time for hackers to send emails disguised as brands.

Phishing attacks are an opportunity for hackers  to use emails to steal a consumer's personal data. Perhaps the most well-known type of phishing attack involves fraudulent emails that look like a person's bank sent them.

For example, a consumer may receive an email that looks like their bank sent it, and the email will typically inform the person that there has been suspicious activity with their bank account and that they need to log in and check it. Underneath this copy, hackers will include a button that allows the consumer to quickly access their account.

However, that link will take the person to a website that — depending on the hacker's level of sophistication — might look identical to the bank's actual website, with minor changes in the URL. Once the person enters their username and password, the hacker can steal that information, head to the real bank's website, and log in to their victim's bank account.

2. Find and implement a password manager

Ever thought it'd be a good idea to have the same password for everything because it'll be easy to remember? Hackers are betting on you to make that exact mistake.

Once hackers get a hold of someone's login credentials, they publish the information on the dark web or share it anonymously on the regular internet, making it available for any and everyone to use. After the hackers post the information, they input the username and password into every social media and bank account they can find, hoping the combination works on various sites.

This strategy is known as an account takeover. If consumers want to protect themselves from this cyberattack, they need to use different passwords for every account and rely on a password manager to store and remember their passwords for them. There are plenty of options to choose from.

3. Input information on sites that utilize SSL and TLS

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) are two different cybersecurity terms that carry the same meaning — they are systems that establish authenticated and encrypted links between networked computers.

A simple way for consumers to think about SSL and TLS is to take a quick look at their browser. Next to the URL, there should be a little lock icon. If the lock isn't present on the site, consumers should never input banking details or any other login information into the website because it's not safe.

The most common and widely recognized use of SSL/TLS is secure online browsing via the "https" system. Users visiting a properly configured https website can rest assured that the site is encrypted and protected against cyberattacks, allowing them to enter private information like bank account details or Social Security numbers without fear.

4. Rely on two-factor authentication (TFA)

People might know two-factor authentication as two-step verification or #Turnon2FA, but each variation pushes the same agenda: add a second layer of security. Protecting your personal data can be as simple as consenting to receive a numeric code anytime you log into your accounts.

Sometimes, two-factor authentication is a bit more sophisticated. With innovations like Apple FaceID and Windows Hello, consumers can use biometric scanners for retinas, faces, and fingerprints to verify their identity. But more often than not, companies will send a few digits to consumers' phones, which they can only use once to access their accounts.

While it seems too simple to be effective, two-factor authentication makes it much more difficult for hackers to break into someone's accounts. Unlike what consumers see in action movies, hackers can't easily mimic someone's fingerprint, retinas, or facial features — and if hackers don't have access to the phone that's receiving a verification code, they can't log into someone's account.

Implement the basics

By implementing four simple cybersecurity measures, consumers can safeguard their personal information on an everyday basis and during an emergency situation. Cybersecurity is an essential part of the world today, and by knowing the basics, consumers will be that much more effective in preventing themselves from falling victim to a cyber attack.

What cybersecurity measure are you going to implement today? Let us know via Twitter (@PrivacyHQ) and start using Privacy today.