National Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2019 focuses on being accountable and proactive — hence the “Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.” slogan.
Here are some tips and references on how you can incorporate this into your daily activities at work, home, and on the go:
Multi-factor authentication, or MFA, is widely available now and is a great way to help protect your accounts from becoming compromised. Check your social media platforms for how to enable it on your accounts.
Think twice before posting private information such as your address and location to the world. Don’t notify the world that you just left for a 2-week vacation (with your house being empty the whole time!). Wait until you get back to share the trip. Also, don’t be an oversharent. You can help protect your children’s identities and information from being posted on the open net for all to see.
For more social media security tips, here’s a one-page quick guide from the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS).
You’ve probably heard this a million times: Protect your home network with encryption and a solid password. Change default passwords to a passphrase at least 8 characters long for equipment like routers immediately. This default login information is freely available on the internet for just about any brand of router you can imagine.
Free wifi – don’t use it. Ok, if you’re in a bind and there are absolutely no other options and you must use it, then be as safe as possible by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN will keep your connection to the internet private. Any sensitive data you might be passing along (bank account login credentials for example) will be kept out of view from prying eyes. The VPN accomplishes this by encrypting your connection.
Password strength and password reuse. Every year, news outlets report on what the most common passwords around the world are. We’ve all seen and heard about it, probably had a good laugh, and moved on. Not today though! We’re being proactive today because this is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, right? In all seriousness, there is no excuse for this behavior anymore – but I can take a guess at what the most common one is: “It’s too hard to remember so many different passwords for everything!”
Password managers (LastPass, Dashlane, 1Password, etc.) are a dime a dozen now and many are even free. They integrate as browser plugins for your computer and as apps for your phone/tablets. They can automatically fill in your login information…or not. It’s up to you. They typically offer multifactor login, which is something you want to enable for something like this. Either way, using one of these is much more secure AND more convenient than using (and reusing) weak passwords for your bank, social media, online shopping sites, etc.
We don’t recommend using the built-in password managers in browsers as they are easy to gain access to if someone else has access to the computer.
Email Phishing is one of the most common attack vectors used to gain access to personal and account information. Why? It’s incredibly easy for bad guys to do. Users either don’t know or don’t care about being secure when checking email. The age-old advice has always been don’t click links on unsolicited emails and don’t open attachments from people you don’t know. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish the real from the fake, but when in doubt, don’t take the chance. Contact the sender (not by replying to the email though; use your own trusted contact info for them) to ensure the email is legit. Err on the side of safety and hopefully you’ll avoid installing ransomware or something even worse on your computer or network.
MFA has already been mentioned a few times here, but it’s a very powerful tool that can help you protect your computer, email, social media accounts, bank/financial accounts, and online shopping sites. It’s simple to use and is becoming an extremely popular service offering.
Here is a quick overview of what it is, how it works, and why you should take advantage of it.
Spread the word
Be proactive with your friends, family, and coworkers by making sure they also understand and practice these privacy and security tips.
For greater detail and more in-depth information on how to Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT., download the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2019 Toolkit.
The author, John Kipp, is the Chief Operating Officer of Sera-Brynn.