Back in 2004, the Department of Homeland Security established the first National Cyber Security Awareness Month in October to raise awareness and understand how to recognize potential problems and protect our personal information.
Even back then, the danger of cyber attacks was evident. Hacking, malware, Trojan horses, worms, viruses and all kinds of other cyber attacks were taking place not only in large computer networks but against John Q. Public’s own computer as well.
The onslaught continues today, with the stakes higher and hackers becoming more and more sophisticated. President Obama said, “Cyber threats pose one of the greatest national security dangers the United States faces.”
Just think about it. Computers are such an integral part of everyone’s life today. Nearly everything we do requires a computer somewhere. Online shopping and traditional brick-and-mortar stores couldn’t function without a computer. Our energy grid is dependent upon computers. Our TV’s cable signal is now computerized. Nearly everyone carries a computer in their pocket, the mobile phone. Our automobiles rely on computers to operate efficiently. Even the IRS requires most tax return preparer’s to file electronically.
A quick poll of the office staff concluded that nearly one third (and possibly higher) of our calls are related to computerized scams of some kind. So, with October being National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we’ve come up with a list of things you should consider addressing.
1. Safeguard your privacy online. Purchase good antivirus and spyware services. Install a reliable pop up blocker. Also consider a utility program that will clean unwanted files from your computer.
2. Secure your mobile devices. Make sure your software is up-to-date. Install the latest operating systems. Consider making it necessary to use a password to unlock your phone or tablet. Turn off Wi-Fi if you’re not using it. Turn off cookies and autofill. Make sure you can trust the developers of the apps you’re installing.
3. Don’t be caught by a “phishing” expedition. “Phishing” is email fraud from perpetrators sending out legitimate-looking emails that appear to be from well-known, trusted businesses. Those people “phishing” try to lure you into furnishing them with personal and financial information. Before you furnish any information to an unsolicited email, double check with the legitimate business to see if the email is real.
4. Prevent mobile device thefts. Never lay your phone down in public, even if you’re right there. Don’t text and walk at the same time. Thieves are very aware and adept at stealing phones from the unsuspecting and distracted. Hide your phone if you’re not using it. Don’t put it in your back pocket or the pocket of your jacket. Do not keep personal information in your phone. Again, password protect your device.
5. Have a backup plan. Backing up your data, whether on computer or mobile device, assures you will be able to recover and install vital information should your device be stolen or damaged.
6. Use strong passwords. Passwords should be a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters as well as numbers and characters such as $,!, %, etc. Never use the same password multiple times.
These are just a few cyber security precautions you should take. Protect yourself. Make every month National Cyber Security Awareness Month!
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.