It’s October and that means it’s time to celebrate National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
With a little knowledge, a little effort, and a few minutes of your time, you can securely lock down your sensitive data and computer systems. Cybersecurity doesn’t have to be scary and doesn’t require a large investment of time or money. In fact, you can secure your digital life with trusted free tools, and now many cybersecurity best practices can be automated.
Here are the National Cyber Security Alliance’s top 10 tips for staying safe online:
- KEEP IT CLEAN: Keep all software on internet-connected devices – including PCs, smartphones and tablets – up to date to reduce the risk of infection from ransomware and malware. If you want to “set it and forget it,” configure your device to update automatically or notify you when an update is available.
- CREATE LONG, UNIQUE PASSWORD: Length trumps complexity. Strong passwords are at least 12 characters long and include letters, numbers, and symbols. Ideally, your password cannot be recognized as a single word or phrase. And yes, you should have a unique password for each online account. Sounds hard to remember? Using a password manager has never been easier (more on that later) – many smartphones and web browsers include password managers and even suggest strong passwords. Otherwise, we recommend creating a password that is truly a “passphrase,” i.e. a sentence at least 12 characters long. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you enjoy thinking about and are easy to remember, such as ILov3StayingSafeOnl1ne! (but don’t use that one).
- USE A PASSWORD MANAGER: It’s time to ditch the notebook if that’s where you keep your passwords – use it for doodles. Same with Notes app or word processing document – saves hard drive space. Instead, the simplest, most secure way to manage single passwords is through a password manager app. A password manager is software created to manage all your online logins such as usernames and passwords. Many are free. Typically, browsers and device operating systems include password managers. Password managers store your passwords in an encrypted database (think of it as your personal data warehouse). These programs also generate new passwords when you need them. Truly, creating, storing and accessing your passwords securely has never been easier.
- ENABLE MULTI-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION: Multi-factor authentication (MFA), sometimes called two-factor authentication, adds a whole other level of security to your key accounts. MFA includes biometrics (such as facial scanning or fingerprint access), security keys, or apps that send you a unique, one-time code when you want to sign in to a sensitive account. We recommend that you use MFA whenever offered. Read more about the different types of MFA.
- THINK BEFORE YOU CLICK: What are the most common ways for cybercriminals to get your sensitive information? That’s when you click on something you shouldn’t have. Malicious links in emails, tweets, texts, posts, social media messages, and malicious online ads (known as malvertising) are a direct way for hackers to obtain sensitive information. your feelings. Don’t make things easy for them. Be wary of clicking on links or downloading anything that comes from a stranger or that you don’t expect. Whenever you receive an email or text, count to five – often that’s when you need to determine whether the message is authentic or not.
- REPORT FRAUD: One of the best ways to take down cybercriminals is to report phishing attempts, and today it’s easier than ever. If the email was sent to your work email address, report it to your IT manager or security team as quickly as possible. If you’re at home and the email arrives at your personal email address, don’t click on any links (including unsubscribe links) or reply to the email again. Most email programs and social media platforms allow you to report phishing attempts. But don’t keep that scam message – delete it as soon as possible. You can further protect yourself by blocking the sender from your email program, social media platform, or phone.
- USE WI-FI SAFELY: Public wireless networks and hotspots are not secure, which means anyone can see what you are doing on your laptop or smartphone when you connect with them. Limit what you do on public Wi-Fi. Especially avoid logging into important accounts like email and financial services. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) or personal/mobile hotspot if you need a more secure connection.
- BACKUP: The best way to protect your valuable work, music, photos, data and other digital information is to make copies and store them securely. If you have a copy of your data and your device falls victim to ransomware or other cyber threats, you will be able to restore data from the backup. If your computer crashes or crashes, you won’t lose your data along with the device. Use the 3-2-1 rule as a guide to backing up your data. The rule is: keep at least three copies of your data, and store two backups on different storage media, with one of them located offsite. One of these storage capabilities could be backing up to the cloud, which are secure computer servers that you can access through your account.
- CHECK YOUR SETTINGS: Every time you sign up for a new account, download a new app, or buy a new device, instantly configure your privacy and security settings according to your comfort level for sharing information. Regularly check these settings to ensure they are still configured for your comfort. Check your apps, platforms and games every few months and delete the ones you no longer use – then you don’t need to check their settings!
- SHARE WITH CARERS: Think before posting online about yourself and others. Consider what the post discloses, who can see it, and how it may affect you or others.
FIND OUT MORE
Spam and phishing: Cyber criminals spend every day honing their skills at luring people into clicking malicious links or opening bad attachments.
Online shopping: Just as you’re careful with your wallet in the store, it’s important to protect yourself when shopping online.
Backup: Protect yourself from data loss by creating backups – electronic copies – of important files.
Malware, Botnets, and Ransomware: The Internet is a powerful, useful tool, but just like you shouldn’t drive without a seat belt or ride a bike without a helmet, you shouldn’t venturing online without taking some basic precautions.
Romance scams: We all know that people online are not always who they seem. However, tens of thousands of Internet users fall victim to online romance scams every year, and it can happen to anyone.
Be safe during tax time: Tax season can be a stressful time for many Americans, and although scams are common year-round, there is often a larger increase during tax time. Stay safe online while filing your taxes with these best methods, tips, and resources.
Clean up your online life: A cluttered digital life leaves your money, identity, and personal information vulnerable to bad guys. Keep yourself and your family safe online with these quick tips for a clean digital space.
Vacation and travel tips: Stay safe online while away from home by following some simple methods to help keep your devices safe and your vacation plans from going wrong.
You can find more information about the National Cyber Security Alliance and National Cyber Security Awareness Month here.