15 Easy-to-Follow Tips for Cybersecurity Awareness Month
Navigating the boundless digital landscape can be a thrilling adventure. It's a space bursting with possibilities, opportunities, and innovations. Yet, like with every adventure, it’s vital to be equipped with the right tools to ensure a smooth and secure journey.
Just in time for Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we're offering some simple—yet highly effective—cybersecurity tips to keep your digital adventures worry-free. From maintaining impeccable password hygiene to keeping your sensitive information under digital lock and key, these practical suggestions offer an easy-to-follow roadmap to a secure online existence, which is the key to embracing the digital world with open arms and peace of mind.
● Keep your software and operating systems updated. Cybercriminals like to target known weaknesses in your operating systems (usually Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android) and applications. Set your computer and phone settings to automatically update your OS. Meanwhile, be sure to keep applications updated as well, including web browsers.
● Set up secret PINs for your bank accounts. PINs (personal identification numbers) offer added protection that limits how impersonators can use stolen info like your name, address, and TFN, to falsely verify their identity when they try to log into your accounts.
● Protect your credit history. Close accounts you no longer use, freeze your credit history account, and keep track of any closed accounts.
● Prove your TFN is really yours. The bad news: Your Tax File Number (TFN) can be bought on the black market for as little as $4. The good news: You can protect yours by going to your local Social Security office and asking for a Report of Confidential Security Benefit Information. If a health provider, insurance company, or other business advises you of a breach that may have exposed your TFN, this should be top on your list.
● Protect your driving record. Convictions attached to your driving record and TFN are difficult, if not impossible, to remove. Suspect you're a victim of identity theft? In addition to calling your banks and freezing your credit accounts, don't forget to contact your local law enforcement and transport authority as soon as possible.
● Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). Passwords (especially weak ones) are too easily foiled. This is why MFA exists. MFA provides an extra layer of security through a variety of additional authentications, including verification codes, security questions, and (strongest of all) biometric authentication like digital fingerprints facial recognition. It's now common for banks and other online platforms to offer MFA for more secure logins. You should opt in.
● Check statements regularly. Check every credit card and bank statement. Look for charges you don’t recognise. Small charges (even as little as a few cents) may be a “test” in advance of a much bigger withdrawal by a criminal. Spot something worrisome? Contact your bank or credit card company.
● Check your exposure on the dark web. Some companies offer services that check your data on the dark web—where personal information is bought and sold. Free websites such as https://haveibeenpwned.com/ can help.
● Pick strong passwords. Strong passwords are the first step in protecting your digital presence. Choose a favourite phrase, then use symbols and numbers as substitutes for some of the letters. Never use the same password more than once or on more than one account. And never share passwords!
● Keep sensitive information safe. Take the following steps:
● Don’t give out account info to family and friends.
● Don’t use free open WiFi for sensitive business.
● Don’t sync your phone to rental cars.
● Don’t send account info to anyone over text.
● Use a shredder. Keep a shredder in your household and shred anything that contains bank statements, utility bills, credit card statements, sensitive emails, medical records, old tax filings, or anything with your name and address on it. (Medical records are especially valuable to cybercriminals—fetching up to 200 times more than credit card numbers on the dark web.)
● Store data correctly. Internal hard drives, external hard drives, USB sticks, and external backup drives are all devices you can use. You can also protect your data with full-volume encryption and file encryption.
● Beware of bogus emails and texts – AKA phishing. Phishing is one of the most common ways attackers get to you in hopes you'll click on a link that downloads malware to your system or tricks you into giving up sensitive information.
Here’s how to spot a phishing attempt:
● The email, text, or web address will usually contain spelling errors—or the "reply to" email doesn't go to that business.
● It will often use a well-known brand name.
● It may ask you to click on a link. (Never click on the link!)
● There is a sense of urgency or a very short time frame.
● You will be asked to disclose information such as login, password, or bank info.
● INSTEAD OF RESPONDING TO THE TEXT: Separately open a browser and log into your account for the business that supposedly sent you the text or email. If that business really is trying to alert you to a locked account, higher-than-usual transaction, etc., there will be a notification waiting for you once you log in.
● Be cautious of open (or public) WiFi. Open WiFi is common in places including coffee shops, airports, and libraries. Don’t join a network unless you know it is legit. Look for WiFi encryption like WPA and WPA2. Never use a wide-open WiFi—consider using a personal hotspot instead by tethering to your mobile phone. Or if your anti-virus software includes the option of securing your connection by turning on a virtual private network (VPN), that can make a public WIFI connection more secure.
● Protect your kids. Think about all the ways we've suggested you protect your own online presence and apply much of that thinking to your kids. Be protective of their TFNs. Safely store or shred docs with their personal information. Regularly check any accounts you’ve set up for them to look for suspicious activity. Consider setting digital guardrails by installing parental control apps like Norton Family, Circle Home Plus or Net Nanny.
And finally–talk to them frequently and honestly about online safety.
Embarking on the path of digital enlightenment doesn’t have to be fraught with peril. By embracing these simple cybersecurity tips, you can cruise through the vast expanses of the internet with much more confidence.
These tips come from our team of cybersecurity experts at VMware Carbon Black. If you're a cybersecurity professional, you're probably working hard to defend your organisation against whatever comes next. Just know we've got you. At Carbon Black, we believe that context matters, and that people matter--specifically, people like you. We believe the right tools can tip the scales in your favour. We believe you can win this fight, and we can help. For more information about our solutions for EDR, XDR, application control, cloud security, workload security and more, visit VMware Carbon Black.