Cyber security is a broad term to describe all the things you can do to keep your computer and personal information safe, including: passwords, being aware of malware and phishing, securing your home network, and teaching your children to be digital citizens.
Each one of these topics piece of the cyber security puzzle…but if one is missing, you could be putting yourself or your family at risk. To help make sure you’ve got the full picture, we’ve assembled a list of cyber security tips and resources.
Passwords and authentication
They may not seem like a big deal, but passwords are your very best, first line of defense against cyber crime. You need strong, unique, passwords…and you need to change them a few times a year. For a list of password do’s and don’ts, plus a simple technique for coming up with strong and memorable passwords, read this blog.
If keeping track of your passwords is too overwhelming, PC Magazine recently reviewed password manager software (many of which are free). This type of solution could help you safely keep all your passwords in one place.
You may also want to think about using what’s called two-factor authentication to sign into accounts. This process asks for a user name and password PLUS another form of identification, such as a security code. More and more websites are including this security feature as an option, so take a look in the account settings. If you use Yahoo!, here are the instructions for opting in to two-factor authentication. For Google, click here.
There are lots of different malicious programs out in cyberspace designed to gather either your personal or financial information (or both!). Malware can come in many different forms, so take a few moments to read what kinds are out there.
To protect against malware, it’s very important that you install all suggested updates for your operating system and, of course, keep your anti-virus software up to date. If you’re not sure if your computer is free of viruses and malware, StaySafeOnline.org has a list of sites that offer free security check ups for your computer.
Cyber criminals are always trying to devise new ways to trick you into revealing information (in fact, we recently told you about a new scam we’ve been hearing about). Your best defense is to think critically and don’t be too trusting. Never send financial information over email, and if a seemingly legitimate organization asks for money tell them you’ll call/email them back—with a phone number or email address you’ve looked up in the phone book.
For more tips on phishing prevention and detection, plus information about reporting a phishing scam, visit OnGuardOnline.gov.
Securing your home network
A firewall is what it sounds like—a virtual wall that helps keep intruders out of your home network and it’s a key component to using the Internet safely. Without one you’re, in a virtual sense, leaving your doors unlocked with a giant “welcome” sign above the door.
If you connect to the Internet using a router, you already have a firewall. The StaySafeOnline.org has some tips for setting up your router for maximum safety.
Computer operating systems also offer firewalls as a second line of defense. Here’s how to check your firewall settings on a Windows 7 machine. And here are instructions for setting up a Mac OS 10.6X and above firewall.
To test your firewall to make sure it’s doing what it should, Gibson Research Corporation offers a free check at their ShieldsUP! website.
Keeping kids safe
Even if you do all of the above, you also need to teach your kids to be safe online too. Be sure to talk with them about online safety, but there are computer and program settings that can help as well. For example, you can set up different user profiles on your computers, explore the parental controls available in your browsers, turn on YouTube’s “safe search”, and more. We’ve got nine tips (with links to instructions) all in one place.
The Department of Homeland Security has developed a campaign called Stop. Think. Connect. to help consumers be safe online. There are materials and information available for all ages and even for business.