October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month across the nation. In its 16th year, Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a joint effort of the Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and to ensure that all Americans have the resources they need to be safer and more secure online.
This year’s message – Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT. – focuses on key areas including citizen privacy, consumer devices, and e-commerce security.
“Every one of us has a seemingly ever-expanding digital footprint – across a range of devices and accounts, at home, at work, or at school and locking down that footprint is a never-ending job,” said Christopher Krebs, DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director said in a press release.
“The consequences of not getting security right go well beyond just having to get a replacement credit card. The decisions we make online can have local, regional and even global implications. It shouldn’t be this hard, but it’s also not hopeless – with this National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we’re aiming to focus on a handful of simple steps we can all take to raise our collective security to the next level and make the bad guys’ jobs that much harder.”
Here are some tips from the National Cyber Security Alliance on how to stay safe in the digital world:
Double your login protection. Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) to ensure that the only person who has access to your account is you. Use it for email, banking, social media and any other service that requires logging in
Shake up your passphrase protocol. Consider using the longest password or passphrase permissible. Get creative and customize your standard passphrase for different sites, which can prevent cybercriminals from gaining access to these accounts and protect you in the event of a breach. Use password managers to generate and remember different, complex passphrase for each of your accounts
If you connect, you must protect. Whether it’s your computer, smartphone, game device or other network devices, the best defense against viruses and malware is to update to the latest security software, web browser and operating systems. Sign up for automatic updates, if you can, and protect your devices with antivirus software
Play hard to get with strangers. Cybercriminals use phishing tactics, hoping to fool their victims. If you’re unsure who an email or message is from ̶ even if the details appear accurate ̶ or if the email looks “phishy,” do not respond and do not click on any links or attachments found in that email. When available use the “junk” or “block” option to no longer receive messages from a particular sender
Never click and tell. Limit what information you post on social media ̶ from personal addresses to where you like to grab coffee. What many people don’t realize is that these seemingly random details are all cybercriminals need to know to target you, your loved ones and your physical belongings ̶ online and in the physical world. Keep Social Security numbers, account numbers and passphrases private, as well as specific information about yourself, such as your full name, address, birthday and even vacation plans. Disable location services that allow anyone to see where you are – and where you aren’t – at any given time
Keep tabs on your apps. Most connected appliances, toys and devices are supported by a mobile application. Your mobile device could be filled with suspicious apps running in the background or using default permissions you never realized you approved —gathering your personal information without your knowledge while also putting your identity and privacy at risk. Check your app permissions and use the “rule of least privilege” to delete what you don’t need or no longer use. Learn to just say “no” to privilege requests that don’t make sense. Only download apps from trusted vendors and sources
Stay protected while connected. Before you connect to any public Wi-Fi be certain to confirm the name of the network and exact login procedures with appropriate staff to ensure that the network is legitimate. If you do use an unsecured public access point, practice good cyber hygiene by avoiding sensitive activities (e.g., banking) that require passphrases or credit card numbers. Your personal hotspot is a safer alternative to free Wi-Fi. Only use sites that begin with “https://” when shopping or banking online.