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October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. It might not be the most riveting holiday, but it’s definitely one of the most important. To honor this month, Homeland Security sent some tips about staying safe in cyberspace. Keep reading for some #protips on protection.
1. Multi-Factor Authentication
Even if you’ve updated your password from Password1 to a string of random numbers, letters, and symbols that you can never remember, it’s still not completely safe. Whenever possible, use a multi-step identification. This could be a password + a text or email to a secure device, using an authenticator app, or answering security questions.
Personal tip: About a year ago, I thought the multi-factor authentication was too time consuming, so I opted out. It didn’t take long for someone to hack my Twitter account and upload some very inappropriate photos. To say it was embarrassing is an understatement! I always enter a password and receive a text when I log in to anything now. This has actually prevented attempted hacks into my email on more than one occasion.
2. Wi-Fi Safety
While Wi-Fi is definitely the best invention since sliced bread, it can be dangerous. Using free Wi-Fi in a public location can put you at risk for hackers. If you are on public Wi-Fi, avoid doing sensitive activities like entering credit card numbers or online banking. No matter what type of Wi-Fi you’re on, always check for the green lock in the browser bar. This signifies the site you are visiting is secure.
3. App Security
Even apps aren’t safe! I know, it’s a crazy world these days. Be careful when giving apps permission to access your camera, microphone, and other features. If it doesn’t seem to make sense, say no. For example, your running app probably doesn’t need access to your contacts and the same with the hottest new game requesting access to your photos. Another couple reminders: always download apps from a secure source like iTunes or Google Play and keep your apps up to date. An app update doesn’t just ensure it runs more smoothly, but it also better protects against cyber threats.
It’s easy to get caught up in the social media hype and share your location, tag the restaurant in the picture you just posted, or check in from vacation. However, this can directly lead criminals straight to your personal stuff! Criminals can piece together information posted online to target your accounts and even your home. Avoid posting personal information like phone numbers, addresses, employers, etc. These can all be used to guess passwords, answer security questions, or track down your real-life location. One easy way to combat this is to limit your social media contacts to people you actually know and trust.
Phishing may sound like fishing, but it’s a lot less fun. Phishing is when hackers send fake emails that appear to be from a real person or company. When you open the email or attachment, they gain access to your computer and personal information. You can avoid this by always being skeptical and never sending personal information, like a credit card number, over email. If an email looks suspicious, don’t open it. If you receive an odd-looking attachment from a trusted friend, give them a call and double check before opening it. Last, never open an attachment that looks fishy without first investigating if it’s trustworthy.
If you’re still using Password1 for every site, change it now! Not only is it unsafe to reuse the same password on different sites, but your password needs to be secure and difficult to guess as well. While a confusing mixture of letters, numbers, and symbols is fairly safe, it’s no longer the most suggested password combination (thank goodness). Now, it is suggested to use the longest password possible. The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center suggested passwords ranging from 16-64 characters!
7. Device Protection
Our devices are great. From our laptops to our smartphones, we can connect to anyone in the world almost instantly. Unfortunately, that also makes us vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Be sure to keep everything up to date, from your web browser to your operating system and everywhere in between. It’s also important to be cautious when plugging something into your device. Ensure your device scans for viruses any time you plug something in, like a flash drive or a phone.
Cybersecurity is an important part of our daily lives that we often forget. This October join us in celebrating National Cybersecurity Awareness Month by taking some time to focus on your cybersecurity. If you would like more information, check out Homeland Security’s website, where we got most of these tips and check out our previous blog post on social media safety.
Stay safe, internet friends!