October 2020 is the 17th year of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCAM). This year has special importance to this month as during the pandemic many aspects of our personal and professional life such as kids’ school, the way we socialize, the way in which we conduct business conferences, and daily activities as a part of the business. Now it is more important than ever that we protect our digital devices and steer clear of cybercriminals.
Why this awareness of privacy threats and protecting our private, personal data is important to us?
Take an example of how do we use the internet and share data knowingly unknowingly. Our day starts with checking our smartphone to see the scheduled business meetings, reminders of the tasks to be completed, and social media updates about our friends, family, and what is happening around. Our Smart homes are equipped with multiple digital devices, from the fridge to smart door locks all connected to the internet and provides access from anywhere anytime. We do shopping, provide health details to get routine check-up online. Kids are learning, playing, connecting to their friends online.
Data breaches and cybersecurity attacks are becoming part of our daily news. In the last few months, cybercriminals are taking advantage of the situation, and hence that attacks like Phishing, Ransomware has escalated to a large extend. After reading about these attacks fraction of the second we think about it and then push it aside thinking I am an individual who will be vesting time and efforts …
Now take a close look at the picture below, the data collectors are collecting every piece of information you share using your smartphones your home appliance, online health care, and shopping. The data brokers use advanced analytics technology to create profiles of our data that can be shared with multiple organizations with good or malicious intentions…
All this sounds either crazy, scary or both together. Protecting your online privacy is your and only your responsibility. Your next question will, how I can do that, I do not understand all those technical mambo jumbos. Don’t worry, it is not all that difficult the way it sounds. Following are a few guidelines/tips which you can easily follow:
Maurice Gibson, an assistant dean with the University of Phoenix, provided us with some tips for how to stay safe from scammers:
- Check out as a guest when making online purchases. Storing credit card information online can make online shopping more convenient, but it also can make it easier for cybercriminals to steal information. Instead, check out as a guest so that your personal information is not stored across multiple websites. Additionally, take a moment to remove all stored credit cards from online retailers.
- Enable multi-factor authentication for password-protected websites (or pay with PayPal).
- Check the security settings of your email and online retailers to see if they offer multi-factor authentication, like text confirmation when logging in. This extra step of authentication adds a layer of security to help keep your information safe.
- PayPal is another good security option. With PayPal, you will not have to disclose your credit card information online when making a purchase.
- Pay with a credit card with a low limit rather than a debit card. If you do choose to store credit card information on retailers’ websites, opt instead to use a credit card with a low limit. Credit cards offer better consumer fraud protection than debit cards and many have zero liability policies or a low capped liability.
- Avoid providing bank information via email. Most financial institutions have secure message centers within their systems that allow consumers to communicate safely. If you must send financial authorizations and information via email, make sure you are encrypting the transmission of that information.
Malicious actors can watch your traffic and learn how you communicate with your institution. When the moment is right, they can send an email posing as you to your financial institution authorizing transfers you know nothing about, until it is too late.
Following are the common mistakes you can avoid:
- Not turning off photo geotagging, which hackers and thieves can use to find you and steal devices with your personal information.
- Accepting prizes, free offers, and advertising scams that require you enter your financial information. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
- Forgetting to update software. Unused, outdated software might provide hackers with a backdoor entrance to your device’s data.
- Trusting a URL that may be similar, but not the same as what you are looking for. Make sure you trust and verify the website to make sure it’s not a spoof with a similar URL.
“As far as best practice is concerned, Stay away from websites you don’t recognize. Stick with big names you can look up. Check the Better Business Bureau to make sure it’s a company that’s reputable,” – Scott Halibur, Special Agent for the FBI
- Check the privacy settings on your social media sites to ensure that your info is only being viewed by people you want to see it and avoid oversharing on social media.
- Limit what you say about your location and plans on social media and help your children with this discipline also. You’re putting yourself at risk each time you provide dates, place, and activities associated with posts and pictures.
- Use complex and unique passwords and change your passwords every 60-90 days or immediately after a reported security breach. A password manager can help if you have a lot of accounts to keep track of.
- Keep your device operating systems and all software up-to-date. Software updates typically contain fixes for security vulnerabilities, so it is important to keep any software applications that you run up-to-date at all times in order to reduce your risk of being vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
- Regularly monitor activity on your online accounts.
If you notice suspicious activity, notify the companies involved immediately. Even with other protections in place, vigilant monitoring is still often the fastest way to identify a compromise
- Avoid using free Wi-Fi networks, particularly in high traffic public places like cafes, airports, and similar places. Public wireless networks and hotspots are not secure, which means that anyone could potentially see what you are doing on your mobile device while you are connected. Limit what you do on public WiFi, and avoid logging in to key accounts like email and financial services on these networks. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) or a personal/mobile hotspot if you need a more secure connection on the go. If you must use an unprotected Wi-Fi network, be sure that HTTPS is enabled for any sites you visit – a good habit for all online activity.
- Learn to recognize and avoid phishing attacks. Very common still and successful! These are emails that order or entice you to click on a link that sends you to a site that requests private information, such as credit card details and passwords.
- Keep WiFi and Bluetooth Off – Some stores and other locations look for devices with WiFi or Bluetooth turned on to track your movements while you are within range. Disable WiFi and Bluetooth when not in use.
- Keep a Clean Machine – Keep security software current: Having the latest security software, web browser and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats.
- Automate software updates: Many software programs will automatically connect and update to defend against known risks. Turn on automatic updates if that’s an available option.
- Protect all devices that connect to the internet: Along with computers, smartphones, gaming systems, and other web-enabled devices also need protection from viruses and malware.
- Plug and scan: “USBs” and other external devices can be infected by viruses and malware. Use your security software to scan them.
- Try to avoid commenting on nostalgic posts on social media. Hackers use information like the year you were born, where you went to high school, what your first job was, and so on to try to figure out your passwords.
Find more tips on Smart home security here.
The security of your personal information starts with you …. Be aware, be safe, stay connected.