October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month—the perfect time to give your accounts and devices the protection they deserve, and learn about the current threats you face online. While there is no sure-fire way to completely defend your different accounts and devices, there are some general guidelines that everyone can use to fight back against unwanted intrusion at home and in the workplace.

Your first line of defense is keeping your information private. Privacy on the internet is one of the most important pillars of safely navigating our interconnected world. Whether it be your online medical records, your credit card information, or simply the password to your e-mail, criminals will gladly take anything they can get. Here’s a list of helpful suggestions to improve your privacy on the internet, and potentially save you from internet thievery.

  • Passwords are like toothbrushes: you should be changing them regularly. You know you probably don’t do it enough; and although changing passwords may feel like a chore, having a solid, new password could make a difference when a data breach occurs. In addition to changing your passwords, sites like com and Google Chrome’s Password Checkup extension are both tools you can use to see if an e-mail or password exists in any databases of stolen information.
  • Know the difference between secure and unsecure sites. According to ZDnet.com, website addresses that include HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) are less secure than sites that begin with HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure). HTTPS websites includes an encryption layer that allows for secure transfer of information between servers and browsers.
  • Free Wi-Fi? Not so fast. While you may appreciate that your neighbor doesn’t have a password on his or her internet connection, or that McDonald’s has great connectivity (and fries); your information is at risk when using a free Wi-Fi network. Because you don’t need a password to access the service, neither do hackers, who can perform “Man in the Middle” cyberattacks to digitally eavesdrop on your activity and potentially steal your information. The solution? According to com, if you must use Wi-Fi publically, try to use your smartphone as a hotspot (although beware of incurred data charges). If that is not an option, make sure to stay away from non-HTTPS websites, and never attempt to access valuable or personal sites such as online banking, medical records, or tax information while on a public hotspot.
  • Accept those security updates! Yes, having to quit what you’re doing for the latest iOS or Android update can seem like real pain in the rear, but those security updates are a small price to pay for peace of mind while using your devices. Often the updates include patches to “holes” in the security software of the device, as technology companies try to stay one step ahead of any “bugs” or gaps that hackers are constantly trying to discover and exploit.
  • Install with caution. Apps that may appear in your device’s virtual store may also carry with them malware that seeks to take your information or open up your security system from the inside. Use discretion when downloading new software onto any device. Take time to read reviews, judge the site from which it originated, and use good judgement when looking over an app. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Remain vigilant of your data and think hard about where you give out your information. As we become more and more reliant upon technology, it only makes sense to make sure we protect our privacy, and by extension, our digital assets. October is known for ghosts and goblins, but there’s no need to be spooked by cyber-attacks!


Guest blogger: Joe Pueschner

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