Cybersecurity Awareness Month – Week 1

By October 4, 2017 Cybersecurity

Let’s Celebrate National Cybersecurity Awareness Month!

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month with the goal to promote awareness and proper cybersecurity practices for all.  Each week of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month has a specific theme, with the first being “Simple Steps to Online Safety.”

We at Alpine Cyber would like to share with you some basic cybersecurity concepts and tips to always keep in mind as you are navigating through your online life. Since more and more of our activities and services are being moved online, we truly need to put cybersecurity first in our daily lives.

Passwords

Once upon a time, it was thought that adding complexity to your passwords meant mixing in symbols, numbers and mixed cases.  While this did make sense at the time, it really did nothing in the long run for actual security.  These requirements actually made it more difficult for people to remember their passwords, which lead to some very bad behavior from easily guessed combinations to flat out writing passwords on post-it notes attached to screens.  The latest recommendation is one we’ve been fans of for years: using a phrase of random words.  This method is actually easier to remember and, believe it or not, harder to crack by machines. The bottom line is that password length and complexity matter, but it doesn’t have to be artificially weird.  Take it from a learned source, XKCD…  

Shared Information Online

Social media has become a part of everyone’s life.  People use Twitter for news, Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends and Instagram to show people what they’ve had for lunch.  But beware – you could be sharing a lot more information than you realize if you aren’t careful.

Here is an example of a scenario where your information can be used against you: Some nefarious individual gets a hold of your email account for an online store but doesn’t know your password.  He tries to login and hits the option for a password hint and it displays “my dog.” He looks up your Facebook account, which is publicly viewable, and finds the name of your beloved pet.  Instant access and fraud.  

Make sure your social media accounts are locked down and you are only sharing with people you actually know.  Don’t over-share information that could be used against you. And always be wary of little apps and websites that request access to all of your information just so they can tell you what your Game of Thrones name would be.

Update / Patch All the Things

Things are way more complicated than they used to be.  Computers, phones, tablets, refrigerators, thermostats, and more all run extremely complicated software.  As the vendors find vulnerabilities, they invariably release updates to fix the issues.  Don’t ignore them!  More often than not, the updates are for plugging a security hole or flaw in the software which may lead to an exploit.  We’ve seen a lot of issues this year with massive malware outbreaks that could have been prevented if computers were patched early and often.  This really is one of the easiest and best ways to protect yourself from online harm.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is the time when we revisit the way we do things online, making sure we are keeping ourselves and our information safe.  It’s not an easy time for information security and it isn’t likely to get easier.  However, starting with these simple tips, you will already be ahead of the curve in cybersecurity.  Stay safe.

Dave Bock

Author Dave Bock

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