October is CyberSecurity Awareness Month

We use the Internet for work. We use the Internet at home. We use the  Internet to gather information or to search for entertainment.

We are constantly connected and enjoy the freedom and efficiency that the Internet provides; however, being constantly connected brings increased risks of theft, fraud and abuse.National Security Awareness Month

October 2014 marks the 11th Annual National Cyber Security Awareness Month sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security in cooperation with the National Cyber Security Alliance and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center.

Even though October is awareness “month”, cybersecurity is a crucial component of our lives and should be observed year round. While this year’s theme is that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, I contend that you have the greatest responsibility.

Computer systems are often designed with security features and technical experts work to make the systems even more secure. However, the choices you make are crucial in the protection of your finances, identity and privacy in this digital world.

Below are some “Quick Wins” for your protection:

Patch Your Computers

Routine security patching is paramount to secure computer system. The overwhelming majority of today’s consumer computer systems automatically download security patches on a routine basis. Your only responsibility is to invest the small amount of time to apply the patches and reboot.

Maintain Up- to-Date Anti-Virus/Anti-Malware Software

While anti-virus/anti-malware software will not protect you against everything, it is a foundational security step against known attacks. Many options are free and update themselves.

Use Passphrases over Passwords

In many instances, simple passwords such as Utvols98 can be “cracked” relatively easily. However, passphrases such as the1998nationalchampionvols are much more difficult and can often be easier to remember (avoiding the mistake of writing passwords down).

Password Protect your Computers and Mobile Devices (phones, tablets, etc.)

All electronic devices used should be password protected. This includes computers, mobile phones and tablet computers. In 2013, 4.5 million mobile devices were lost or stolen. Each week, there are approximately ten thousand laptop computers lost or stolen in airports alone. Password protection is your first line of defense.

Use Portable Media that is Encrypted

A large majority of today’s data breaches are attributed to lost or stolen portable media (USB drives). If you must transport information on USB drives, use drives that are encrypted.

Use Extreme Caution Clicking on Links or Opening Attachments that Arrive via Email

Arguably the primary attack tool used by hackers are phishing emails. Emails with content that either work off of trust or provide an immediate call to action are enticing. The objective is to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an infected attachment. Either option will install malware onto your computer providing access to the attacker in many instances.

Be Cautious with Online Postings

While our society is becoming more and more “social”, care needs to be taken regarding the information you post online about yourself and family. This information may be used to determine ways to guess your password, assist with answering account security questions, or may be used in designing a phishing email specifically for you.

Be Careful using free Wifi Networks

Free Wifi networks are similar to a conference bridge. Many people can use the conference bridge to communicate while being able to hear the other conversations. While much of your sensitive activity will be encrypted, not everything will. Someone with the appropriate skillset could “listen” in on your Internet activity while connected to the free Wifi.


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