October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Since COVID, we have seen a significant shift in transitioning to work at home.

Many businesses and individuals were not prepared for remote work. The bad guys know this and are constantly changing tactics to exploit new vulnerabilities.

Add to this pandemic information and myths, the upcoming presidential election, and other controversial topics, and the internet is full of opportunities for poor decision making.

Cybercriminals know this and are taking advantage. According to Checkpoint, researchers suggest there has been a 30% increase in phishing attacks in 2020. 

This year’s theme for Cybersecurity Awareness Month is “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.”

Internet Safety Guidelines

Here are some guidelines to ensure your safety on the internet. Most experts agree that just as YOU create cyber-criminals’ opportunity to breach your computer, you can do a lot to prevent such attacks. Now is the time to put these guidelines into effect. If everyone implements more robust security practices, our interconnected world will be safer for work and play.

1. Password Specifications

Make your password complex (min of 12 characters containing at least one upper, lower, number, and symbols. Use a phrase with misspellings (very familiar to YOU) or even better, use a password generator/manager.

Some popular password managers that are helpful include Lastpass and Dashlane. These programs remember the passwords for you.

2. Change Your Password

Change your password at least annually. (Every six months is even better) Another reason using a password manager will be helpful

3. Be Suspicious

Be especially careful of opening emails of the following:

  • Sent from people you don’t know- especially if they ask to connect to links or open files.
  • Messages that create an image of urgency or severe consequences are key candidates for phishing. They want your info and want to scare you into giving it to them. They may say things like “Your account will be frozen,” “I have video of you,” “I know your password,” or other similar things.
  •  Mails sent from people you know, asking for unusual things should also cause you to think twice. Sometimes they will ask a question like, “Do you know these people” with a link to a photo. Do not click.
  • Emails referencing the coronavirus that appear to be coming from a company, as these may be phishing attempts or scams.

 4. Links in Email

Never click on an email LINK unless you are confident of the sender and are expecting the email.

Just because the From line says Amazon, “your bank,” or whatever, does not mean that is the actual sender. Hover over the From name to see who really sent it. Chances are it is not the company or person listed.

5. Attachments

Never Open an email ATTACHMENT unless you are confident of the sender and are expecting the email.

Attachments can hold a virus that, once opened, could allow cybercriminals to take control of your computer, access sensitive information such as financial data, and log your keystrokes.

If you are unsure, contact the sender (by phone) before clicking on the attachment.

6. Reply To

If an email asks you to reply, it is important to hover over the “Reply to” address and make sure you are responding to the person or company you should be communicating with.

7. Update Software

When you get reminders that software updates are available for your equipment, don’t delay, update as soon as possible. Or configure your devices to update automatically. Updates patch security flaws and help to protect data and add new features and remove outdated ones.

8. WiFi Network Security

Make sure your WiFi network is encrypted. If your WiFi requires a password, that is a good thing. If not, access your router settings to make it secure.

It is also wise to change your router’s default password once a year. If your router is breached, an attacker could have access to your devices and everything you pass through the router. The default passwords for routers are often a weak link in protection.

9. Protect Your Connections

Our businesses and homes are more connected than ever. Your devices used for both professional and personal use need to be protected. Make sure your antivirus and malware programs are up to date and working correctly. 

As the holidays approach, cybercriminals will ramp up their calculated social engineering attacks. We want you to be aware and “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.” 

3 Thoughts to “Celebrate Cybersecurity Awareness Month By Being CyberSmart”

  1. Linda

    Nice article. Very informative.

  2. Great info! Changing my passwords today.

    1. Glad that you were able to take advantage of the info. Thanks for your comment.

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