Written by: Deanna Laperle, Facility Security Officer
October is the National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) and we would like to remind you to be conscious of the virtual threats posed to you and provide some guidance on ways you can prevent cybercrime. The pervasiveness of the internet in our daily lives and our reliance on technology has opened us up to a widespread vulnerability for cybercrime. We use the internet in all aspects of our lives, from our banking institutions to our personal correspondences, and we need to be aware of ways we can better protect ourselves from those who are looking to harm us. Some simple steps you can take to ensure you and your family are better protected against malicious cyber-attacks can be found below.
- Update your antivirus regularly. Antivirus protection companies perform constant evaluations of their systems and push frequent updates for patches or fixes developed in response to a discovered weakness or vulnerability.
- Schedule regular scans of your system. You can establish an antivirus scan schedule in the administrative application of your antivirus program that will run in the background as you are working.
- Don’t open e-mails, click on links or open attachments from people you don’t know. “Phishing” e-mails are an easy way for a malicious user to gain access to your system or sensitive personal or financial information.
- Disable images and links in your e-mail settings. You can disable the feature in your e-mail that automatically downloads images and enables hyperlinks to reduce the risk of unintentionally downloading malicious software onto your system.
- Delete suspicious e-mails, even if they’re from a trusted source. Accounts can be spoofed or hacked, so it’s best to delete any and all suspicious e-mails. You should follow-up with the person or organization that appeared to be the sender to make sure they are aware that their account may have been hacked or that their manner of sending e-mails might be interpreted as malicious.
- Use ad-blocking software in your browser. You can install free add-ons or applications to your browser of choice to block many of the advertisements on websites. Adblock Plus is a popular example.
- Don’t visit untrusted or unverified websites. Website URLs are posted under the hyperlinks on search engines like Google; err on the side of caution if the URL looks suspicious. You can also install free add-ons or applications to your browser of choice that will inform you if a website is verified as safe or known to be malicious. Web of Trust (WOT) is one such extension.
- Use stronger, more complex passwords and/or multi-factor authentication for sensitive accounts. It’s better to use a phrase over a word for a password, with a combination of numbers, letters and special characters and not to reuse the same password for multiple accounts.
- Only log in to sensitive accounts on a secured network. For instance, it’s best not to log in to your banking account on the free Wi-Fi network provided at Starbucks or Panera.
I have included resources below that can provide more information on how you can help protect yourself and others from malicious attacks and promote a culture of cognizant cyber security: