Cyber Security Awareness Month: What You Need to Know
October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. This isn’t just another trending hashtag. Even Homeland Security is in on this push to inform American citizens how to stay safe online. Cyber criminals are everywhere these days, accessing sensitive data from all around the world. Sometimes it’s the guy sitting across from you at the coffee shop. Other times it could be a tech-savvy individual located in another country far away from your own.
The Internet has made the world much smaller, but in turn, the risks are much larger. Whether you’re using the web for fun or for business purposes, you need to know how to protect yourself in this day and age.
Cyber Security Threats on Social Media, Websites, and Online Accounts
Social media is so integrated into our lives that it’s easy for us to blur the privacy line. We post “check-in” statuses online, snapshots of our outings, updates on everyday life events, and even how we’re feeling in the moment. However, as harmless as these little tidbits and media glimpses can seem, they can quickly add up to produce enough information for stalking, identity theft, and other forms of terror and harassment.
Meanwhile, websites, blogs, and sensitive online accounts are also at risk. These online resources are “info banks” full of data, media, and information that can be stolen and turned into profit, deleted, or used against you.
Keep yourself safe by implementing the tips below.
Cyber Security Tips to Start Using Right Now
- Maintain Your Data Privacy: Companies and individuals will take your photos for advertisements, other profiles, and blogs. Some will even impersonate another person online to gain access to their friends and personal information. Think twice before sharing information publicly. Check your privacy settings regularly and aim to keep as much of your private updates private.
- Individuals, Bloggers, and Online Personalities Should Consider a Pseudonym: Anonymity is a good thing online whether you’re posting as an individual or a celebrity. Avoid sharing information that can help people find out where you live or work. Don’t share photos with the public or strangers that include your family, your home, or other sensitive and identifiable information.
- Protect Your Accounts, Blogs, and Website from Hackers: Use strong passwords that are long, unique, and aren’t easy to guess. A random string of words, letters, or numbers are good. Don’t use the same password for all of your accounts, either. Instead, keep each one unique. Use multiple authentication steps when possible. All of these things will help significantly in keeping your data secure. Click here to read more about how to create a strong password.
- Connect to Wifi Manually, and with Caution: While it’s convenient to keep your tablets, mobile phone, laptop, computer, and other devices set to connect automatically, not every wifi hotspot is safe. Instead, turn off this setting and make it a point to connect to wifi manually. Use discretion. Not all wifi hotspots are what they seem. Hackers will disguise personal hotspots with common, free access points such as “attwifi.” This enables them to access your computer after you log on. Avoid the risk and only use confirmed, secure wifi hotspots. Never allow your computer to share information with other devices while on a public hotspot.
15 Cyber Security Tips You Can Do Right Now!
- Security Tip #1
Guard Against Wifi Baddies! Hackers often create “dummy” hotspots such as “attwifi” to emulate safe, free hotspots. Protect yourself by constantly clearing your list of wifi networks you connect to automatically.
- Security Tip #2
E-Mail that Self-Destructs? 10MinuteMail.com lets you sign-up for an online program without using your e-mail address by providing an e-mail for 10-20 minutes. After the time limit, the e-mail will be deleted and you have your login without giving away personal information.
- Security Tip #3
Use Long Pin Codes! Avoid easy to guess or short pin codes. The minimum should be 6 digits. Avoid overused codes such as 0000, 1111, 1212, and 1234.
- Security Tip #4
Turn On Automatic Updates! Okay, so we hate waiting for computer updates, but the truth is they do keep us safe. Setup automatic updates to prevent vulnerabilities from outdated software.
- Security Tip #5
Passwords Shouldn’t Make Sense! When creating a strong password, be random. A selection of randomly generated words is much harder to guess than your birthday, anniversary, maiden name, dog’s name, etc.
- Security Tip #6
Use 2 Factor Authentication! Many e-mail accounts and personal accounts now offer multiple ways to identify yourself, including text-sent verification codes. Use them! It may be more work, but it will keep your info from getting into the wrong hands.
- Security Tip #7
Cover Your Webcam! Did you know hackers can hack your computer camera? Even Mark Zuckerberg puts tape over his camera when it’s not in use. Don’t be afraid to do the same!
- Security Tip #8
Use a Firewall! Hackers like to hang out in public places, waiting for people to sign on to public access hotspots. Shut them down by turning on your firewall. This restricts outside computers from linking to yours.
- Security Tip #9
Don’t Share Files Over Public Wifi
Limit device-to-device file sharing features to secure home networks. Why? Allowing communication to other devices in a public access area is like a revolving door. You don’t want others coming in while you’re sending out.
- Security Tip #10
Turn Off Network Discovery!Turning off your laptop’s network discovery feature while using a public network is like going into stealth mode. It makes it difficult for foreign devices to find you. Protect yourself by keeping it off when you’re outside of a secure home network.
- Security Tip #11
Use a VPN! Virtual Public Networks routes your traffic through a single remote server. These servers have tight security that protect its users.
- Security Tip #12
Check Links Before You Click! Not every link is what it seems. URLVoid.com allows you to check a link’s safety before you click on it to make sure it won’t lead you to a malicious site.
- Security Tip #13
Aim for HTTPS! Ever notice HTTPS in front of your URL? This means the data on that site is encrypted. In simple terms, it’s safer (the “S” stands for secure)! Make sure to add this extension to the websites you visit to encrypt data sent and received.
- Security Tip #14
Protect Yourself from Ad Snoops! Ads these days aren’t billboards. They’re live code that can read your data. Block them using services such as Adblock Plus, Ghostery, and Privacy Badger.
- Security Tip #15
When In Doubt, Ask! Received a suspicious looking e-mail notice from your bank, Amazon, social media site, or other service? Think before you click! Especially if they ask for credentials. Instead, manually type in the service’s website or contact their customer support to verify.
What to Do if Your Security has Been Compromised
If you find yourself a victim of an online crim, notify your local authorities and file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov). If an individual has inappropriately contacted you over the Internet, report it to www.cybertipline.com, who will coordinate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local authorities.
If your website has been hacked or compromised, contact your website provider immediately. Make sure you backup your data as a safety precaution before an incident occurs. Being proactive about your security can lessen and prevent your online risks.
For more tips on cyber security and safety, check out iPartnerMedia’s Facebook page. We’ll be posting new tips throughout the month of October!