When people think about cyber security, most immediately relate to when they are online, using a laptop, tablet or smart phone to surf the Internet, check emails or play games.
Understandable, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg of our cyber-presence. Today we are connected and dependent in so many ways we never consider. If we are out of town, we have cameras in doorbells that can tell us someone is standing on the porch. Need an answer to a question, to turn on the lights or maybe set a timer? Just say, “Alexa,” or, “Hey Google!,” and it’s done! We have smart TVs, smart light bulbs, smart thermostats and even smart refrigerators. We have fitness trackers on our wrists and display screens in our cars. We stream videos, music and podcasts.
As you can see, we live in a cyber world, and whether we like it or not, cybersecurity threats are ever increasing. As a result, October of every year is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, when government, industry and academia join in a collaborative effort to make sure Americans have the resources needed to stay safe and secure online.
This year’s NCSAM theme is ‘Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.’ The theme encourages personal, proactive behavior to secure and protect ourselves from cyber threats.
• Own IT. Take proactive steps to protect your online safety and ensure your information is secure. Understand your digital profile. It encompasses every aspect of your life, no matter if at home, work, school or on the go. Avoid free or open Internet networks. Be familiar with security for devices you use every day. Make sure the apps you use, whether they be fitness, email or music, don’t compromise your info.
Parents are advised to be particularly vigilant. Kids are going online more than ever. There are literally hundreds of thousands of games and other apps available on the App Store and Google Play. These third-party apps often put children at risk of being taken advantage of. Games often have pop-ups that take players to other screens, luring them with promises such as in-game rewards or currency, but could be potentially linking them to a bad site. Avoid giving a child any credit card or bank information. (I know this sounds like “Duh,” but it happens more than you think!) Teach kids to create long, strong passwords.
• Secure IT. The major part of owning your online safety is securing it. Cybercriminals are experts at getting personal information from unsuspecting victims. Their methods evolve as quickly as technology. Learn about safety features available on the equipment and software you use.
Make sure your devices have additional layers of security, such as Multi-Factor Authentication. Multi-Factor Authentication is a method of confirming a user’s identity by requiring a combination of two different factors: 1) something they know, 2) something they have, or 3) something they are. A good example of two-factor authentication is the withdrawing of money from an ATM; only the correct combination of a bank card (something the user possesses) and a PIN (something the user knows) permits the transaction to be completed.
• Protect IT. Cybercriminals can exploit your digital trail with every click, post, send or share you make. Protect yourself by practicing good cyber hygiene, both at home and in the workplace. Make yourself familiar with and routinely check your social media privacy settings. At work, establish and constantly adhere to cyber safety guidelines and protocols.
Don’t be a victim! Cyber safety is in your hands. Own IT! Secure IT! Protect IT!
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.