We live in an environment that is made up of ones and zeroes. It is more connected now than ever before. The Internet touches just about everything around us, whether we realize it or not.
Your computer, mobile and home phone, TV, game console, watch, car, music player, refrigerator, security system, air conditioning, heating system and almost any other electronic device can now be connected online.
While this can be convenient, it can also be scary. You need to make sure you strike the proper balance between an acceptable level of risk and being productive. This applies at work just as much as it does at home.
Stressing this importance, the president deemed this October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month. To that end, here are some quick tips to help guide you as you navigate the new frontier — the cyber domain.
• Create strong passwords. If you can use at least a two-step verification process, use it. A number of companies and websites are now asking for extra validation information to protect your accounts. This is to put an extra layer of protection on accessing your information beyond just a username and password.
• Use up-to-date anti-virus protection. Using anti-virus software prevents, detects and, in most cases, removes malicious software on your computer. In a lot of cases, it is your last line of defense.
• Keep your system’s software up to date. Much like using anti-virus software, having all your programs up to date potentially prevents unwanted exploitation of program vulnerabilities.
• Routinely back up your data someplace other than the same system your information is already on. Do not allow your computer to be a single point of failure for vital information you could never recover if lost.
• Watch out for phishing scams. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Look at the source of the email. Does it look suspicious? When at work, was the email electronically signed? When in doubt, contact the source of the email through other means to verify its authenticity.
• Be careful when using public wireless access points or hotspots. Use a virtual private network, also known as a VPN, or secure application. Without proper precautions, do not conduct important activities such as banking or transmitting sensitive information in the open on public networks.
• Limit the amount of personal information you post online and use privacy settings to avoid sharing too much of your personal data. Yes, social media is a very good means of keeping in contact with others, but it can also be used to track or target your activities if you don’t take the proper steps to ensure your privacy. Too much personal information about yourself can potentially allow your information to be used for harmful purposes.
• Pay attention to your children’s online activities. Our most precious resource needs to be educated on Internet safety just as much as we do. Stay engaged with how they connect and who they interact with online.
• Online banking can be safe if conducted properly. Watch your finances closely for abnormal activity and know how to take action immediately to protect your investments. Online banking makes the process even easier to combat financial theft or fraud.
Whether we believe it or not, cyber security is everyone’s business. As the ways we use technology increase all around us, our lives become easier and more connected. However, being constantly connected brings increased risk.
No one is immune to cyber risks. As a country, we face constant cyber threats against our capabilities within the cyber arena. As individuals, without the proper precautions, cyber risks threaten our identity, finances and privacy.
Since our way of life depends on technology, cybersecurity is important. We each have a role to play in cybersecurity as it is a shared responsibility, both personally and professionally.