National Cyber Security Awareness Month: 5 Ways To Protect Yourself

National Cyber Security Awareness Month
Did you know that October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month? It’s easy to see that cyber security is something businesses and organizations need to worry about. However, since so much of our personal data and lives are conducted online, each person must also take steps to protect their devices and their home from cyber attacks. In fact, in 2016, 689 million people in 21 countries experienced cyber crime.

The Department of Homeland Security has identified three common cyber crimes committed against individuals:

·       Identity theft – Someone steals your personal information and then takes out credit or money in your name.

·       Phishing attacks – Criminals send an email from a legitimate-looking email address and includes a link or attachment that downloads a virus or malware onto your device.

·       Imposter scams –Someone emails or contacts you and pretends to be someone who needs money, such as a government official or family member. 

Once a criminal has your personal identifying information (PII), they can then commit identity theft against you. Here are five ways to protect yourself from becoming a statistic:

1.    Be careful not to open attachments or click on links from unsolicited emails. Even if the email is from a friend, their account could have been hacked. Phishing is a very common cyber crime, with the Norton Cyber Security Insights Report finding that 86 percent of people reporting that they have been the target of an incident.

2.  Practice safe password management. Many people do not take proper precautions with passwords, with 41 percent of online adults having shared their password with someone else, and 39 percent admitting they use the same (or very similar) passwords for all of their accounts. Consider using a password manager service for extra safety. Be sure to:

b. Do not use very common words such as user, password or 12345678.
c. Choose a password that is not in the dictionary, or a nonsense phrase.

2.    Set privacy settings on social media sites. Because crooks may use personal information gathered from social media to commit cyber crimes against you, block the people you do not want seeing your profile. Consider making all of your social media pages private.

3.    Secure your mobile devices. Are you one of the 28 percent of smartphone users who do not use a password to lock your smartphone? Password protecting your phone helps keep your bank account, home address and photos safer from criminals.

5.   Use a virtual private network (VPN) instead of public wireless networks. According to Pew Research Center, 54 percent of online adults use insecure public wireless networks, and 1 in 5 people have used public networks for transactions such as e-commerce or online banking. Using a VPN connection provides a much safer environment than public wireless. When you use public wireless, it is possible for others to eavesdrop on your wireless transactions and intercept your information, including passwords and banking information.

Recovering from a cyber crime can be frustrating, expensive and time consuming. By taking a few minutes each day to practice safe internet and mobile practices, you can prevent yourself from experiencing weeks, or perhaps months, of stress.