Summary: It’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month, a time to brush up on smarter security practices for everyday actions like online shopping, surfing, and banking. Hackers are getting smarter in 2018, so if you own a computer, smartphone, or connected device, you need to know about this holiday.
National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) occurs each October as a campaign to raise the public’s awareness of how dangerous cyber threats are and how important cybersecurity is for everyone. This nationally celebrated event was started by Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance, and professionally-sponsored events are held across the country. From businesses to educational institutions, everyone participates in the efforts to get people more involved and aware during this time. With 200,000 new malware samples captured each day, these are a few takeaways everyone should be aware of.
Basic Online Safety
Basic online security is a must at home, at work, and even on the go. This year’s NCSAM online safety slogan is short, simple, and accurate: Stop, Think, Connect. Before doing anything online, stop to check that proper safety measurements are in place and think about the consequences of the action you’re about to take. Once you’ve taken these necessary precautions, go ahead and connect safely. A few basic online safety measures everyone can use include:
- Password selection & management: Learn how to create a safe password and manage various passwords with a simple password manager.
- Two-Step Authentication: This tool can protect you on many levels. Two-step authentication requires you to put in a new code each time you log in to an account. While it might take an additional minute to get Facebook running, this process will ensure that nobody can steal your password and log in to your accounts.
- Link safety: With 78% of people getting duped by phishing links, clicking on malicious links is one of the easiest ways to invite hackers in. Never click on anything unless you’re 100% sure it’s safe. Know who sent the link, where it leads, and what it does.
Using a VPN
A virtual private network encodes and shrouds your internet usage. The best VPN services are not only helpful in case you don’t want to have anyone spying on your browsing habits, but they are invaluable for protecting any inputted information such as passwords, file sharing, and generally keeping private data safe.
Protecting Personal Information
NCSAM teaches us that we need to be more vigilant about all areas of safety. This includes beefing up our regular home security systems to include features like SMS alerts and video surveillance and improving our daily security activities. Things like leaving a pile of mail in the mailbox invites identity theft. Experts recommend not even leaving bills, credit card applications, and other documents with private information out in the open when friends come to visit because of the growing disturbance of familial identity theft.
Computer users need to protect their personal information online and off. That means incorporating strong antivirus software on every device and keeping them up to date. Antivirus is so simple to install, yet it is alarming how many people fail to take advantage of this necessary safety precaution.
Cybersecurity at Work
Another major topic NCSAM touches on is workplace cybersecurity because it’s just too easy to leave your computer open while you run to the kitchen for a cup of coffee or to leave a scrap of paper with a password next to your phone. Homeland Security stresses the importance of employers having a security plan and measures in place such as filters, antiviruses, and proper password protection that will keep employees safe from workplace identity theft and other cyber hazards.
Employees shouldn’t leave workplace protection to their bosses alone, though. Take simple steps like:
- Logging out whenever you leave your desk
- Disposing of documents properly
- Sharing files only through the secured network
- Not plugging in external devices
One course of action employees can take on their own, however, is running a background check on suspicious co-workers. If you’ve noticed a co-worker hanging around your cubicle too often, acting unusual, or other off-putting signs, there’s no harm in running a simple check, and it can do you a lot of good. Finding out your friendly neighbor in the cubicle to the left was convicted of fraud, for example, can tip you off to be more careful.
Cybersecurity is Your Only Hope
$16 billion was stolen via identity theft scams in 2016. NCSAM is the kind of yearly reminder that everyone needs to stay aware of both the threat and the everyday solutions that we can use to protect ourselves against these growing threats. Don’t let yourself be one of the 13 million victims; stay aware and guard yourself against these threats right now.