October is a month associated with many things, including stunning fall foliage displays and various global and national celebrations. In many parts of the world, people are thinking up costumes for the parties that will be happening in the run-up to the scariest day of the year – Halloween. Yet, there is one more thing October is about, and it is by no means the ever-present smell of pumpkin spice. A subject that if overlooked can be far more terrifying than the scariest costume – cyber security.
Unfortunately, that is no exaggeration. With technology now being an integral part of everyday life and many tasks transitioning from the analog to digital space, it is now more important than ever to protect our digital lives from continuously evolving cyber-threats. Long story short, for cybercriminals everybody is a potential target; government official, celebrity, tech CEO, or average John Q. Public – they don’t discriminate.
However, governments and their agencies are well aware of these threats, so in a bid to educate their citizens to do their part and be responsible netizens, they raise awareness using various campaigns. October has been chosen for such initiatives, being designated European Cyber Security Month (ECSM), and Cyber Security Awareness Month (CSAM) in the United States and Canada.
This year’s overarching theme of CSAM is “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.” The key message “If you connect it, protect it” focuses on the increasing inter-connectedness of our world and the Internet of Things (IoT), including against the backdrop of the current trying times of COVID-19.
By raising the collective awareness of these threats and vulnerabilities, initiatives such as CSAM and ECSM aim to ensure that everyone does their part and contributes to increased safety and security online. When everyone is responsible, and everyone does their part, it increases global cyber-immunity and reduces the risk of getting cyber-infected.
Practice good online safety habits with these general tips and advice you can use with your personal computers and at work.
Keep a Clean Machine
- Keep security software current: Having the latest security software, web browser and operating system is the best defense against viruses, malware and other online threats.
- Automate software updates: Many software programs will automatically connect and update to defend against known risks. Turn on automatic updates if that’s an available option.
- Protect all devices that connect to the Internet: Along with computers, smartphones, gaming systems and other web-enabled devices also need protection from viruses and malware.
Protect Your Personal Information
- Lock down your login: Fortify your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media.
- Make your password a sentence: A strong password is a sentence that is at least 12 characters long. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember (for example, “I love country music.”). On many sites, you can even use spaces!
- Unique account, unique password: Having separate passwords for every account helps to thwart cybercriminals. At a minimum, separate your work and personal accounts and make sure that your critical accounts have the strongest passwords.
- Write it down and keep it safe: Everyone can forget a password. Keep a list that’s stored in a safe, secure place away from your computer. You can alternatively use a service like a password manager to keep track of your passwords.
Connect with Care
- When in doubt, throw it out: Links in emails, social media posts and online advertising are often how cybercriminals try to steal your personal information. Even if you know the source, if something looks suspicious, delete it.
- Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots: Limit the type of business you conduct and adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your machine.
- Protect your $$: When banking and shopping, check to be sure the site is security enabled. Look for web addresses with “https://” which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. “Http://” is not secure.
Be Web Wise
- Stay current. Keep pace with new ways to stay safe online: Check trusted websites for the latest information, and share with friends, family, and colleagues and encourage them to be web wise.
- Think before you act: Be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately, offer something that sounds too good to be true or ask for personal information.
- Back it up: Protect your valuable work, music, photos and other digital information by making an electronic copy and storing it safely.
Be a Good Online Citizen
- Safer for me, more secure for all: What you do online has the potential to affect everyone – at home, at work and around the world. Practicing good online habits benefits the global digital community.
- Post only about others as you have them post about you: The Golden Rule applies online as well.
- Help the authorities fight cybercrime: Report stolen finances or identities and other cybercrime to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov) and to your local law enforcement or state attorney general as appropriate.
Own Your Online Presence
- Personal information is like money. Value it. Protect it: Information about you, such as your purchase history or location, has value – just like money. Be thoughtful about who gets that information and how it’s collected through apps and websites.
- Be aware of what’s being shared: Set the privacy and security settings on web services and devices to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s okay to limit how and with whom you share information.
- Share with care: Think before posting about yourself and others online. Consider what a post reveals, who might see it and how it could be perceived now and in the future.
We sincerely appreciate your participation! Have a safe and successful Cyber Security Month.
About the AuthorMore Content by Perry Straw