Cyber Security Awareness MonthThe Internet has quickly become an essential part of virtually everyone’s lives, but our dependence on the Internet has come at a cost. Every time we use the Internet either for social or business purposes we put ourselves at risk. The more personal information we allow into cyberspace, the more vulnerable we become to the perpetrators of theft, fraud or other cyber hazards. Thankfully there are precautions we can all take to make our time on the Internet safer.

For those of you who don’t know, October is cyber security awareness month. According to the Homeland Security website, cyber security month is designed to educate the public and private sectors in practices that raise awareness about cyber security.

Create Policies and Provide Awareness Training
One of the most effective ways companies can foster cyber security is to create policies and enforce them. A policy can be something as simple as dictating password strength. As with any policy, a key to it being effective is to assure it is followed, so be sure to reward those who comply and punch those who don’t. Further, it is necessary to train employees on how to comply with the set policies. In short, a good rule of thumb to follow is policies need to be documented, taught, audited and enforced.

In addition to training on specific company policies, we recommend an awareness program. This program should include a mixture of relevant courses to your organization: Security Awareness Essentials, Anti-Phishing Training, HIPAA, PCI, Ethics and more. These courses will help protect your organization from cyber theft, as a major cause of breaches is negligent insiders. Educate your insiders both about your internal policies and general security and anti-phishing best practices.

Have a Strong Defense
It is important to defend your computer against danger. You can do this by making sure everything on your computer is up to date. This includes your software and web browser. A good practice is to set up automatic updates. It is also a good idea to install security updates. Be sure to use safeguards such as anti-virus, anti-spam, and anti-spyware software. The more safeguards you have the less likely it will be that someone can hack into your system and take your information. For your company computer or devices, check with your IT department before making any changes.

Watch for Email Scams
It seems like every day a new email scam is popping up. It’s hard to keep on top of what scams to keep an eye out for. But, there are some telltale signs that indicate an email is not legitimate. First, be leery of any email that comes to you from an unknown sender. When looking at the content of the email, look out for misspellings and grammatical errors. Deals that seem to good to be true are probably scams, so are cries for help from foreign lands, especially if they are asking for money. Be sure to question any emails that ask for sensitive or personal information such as social security or account numbers. Look out for blue hyperlinks. Clicking on these could spell disaster for you. To add an extra layer of protection, it is a good idea to add a filter that will warn you of suspicious web sites.

Mobile Security
Smartphones have made it easy for us to be constantly connected to the Internet. But, they bring additional security issues. So, it is important to make sure you are protected when using your mobile devices as well as your desktop computers. Be sure to use the most secure Wi-Fi option available. It is best if it includes encryption and password protection. Sometimes cyber thieves try to trick people by using slight misspellings of wireless networks. Be sure to carefully check what network you are connecting to. Encrypt your data so it can’t be accessed if your device is lost or stolen. Also, before you get rid of an old mobile device, be sure it is clear of all personal information.

Don’t be too Social
Our generation has become somewhat obsessed with social media. Most of us can’t go a whole day without checking our Facebook page or Tweeting about something. But, our seeming need to perpetually keep in touch with everyone has a downside. Posting about an upcoming weekend trip can alert a thief to the fact that you will be out of the house for an extended period of time. Posting pictures of your kids makes them vulnerable to kidnappers. Anything you post or share says something about you and puts you in a position of vulnerability. Take precautions when you are using social media. Think before you post anything. Think about limiting access to your posts to a small group of people. Never post your full name, social security number, address, phone number, or any account numbers. Make sure your social media experience is about fun and not something to constantly worry about.

The 21st century has without a doubt seen technology advance faster than any other era in time. These advancements have afforded our culture many wonderful things. However, we have to be more careful than ever in order to safeguard ourselves from those who wish to benefit from our carelessness. There is no way we can assure we won’t be victims of cybercrime, but by being vigilant and following a few simple guidelines whenever we’re online, we can make it less likely that we will become cyber victims.