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October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. This month, we encourage you to do your part to make online activity safer for you and your loved ones. Experts estimate there are over 2,200 cyberattacks per day, basically about one nearly every 40 seconds. Most anything we do nowadays is digital, and behind every corner, someone is lurking to take advantage.
So, how can you protect yourself and those you care about from hackers? We walk you through top five cybersecurity do’s and don’ts.
According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), cybersecurity is the art of protecting networks, devices, and data from unauthorized access or criminal use and the practice of ensuring confidentiality, integrity and availability of information.
You probably have a list a mile long with passwords that give you access to all the websites you need to function throughout the day. Create strong passwords that make it hard for criminals to guess what you might use. Don’t use simple passwords like street names, house numbers and the names of your beloved pets. Essentially, use nothing someone even close to you would guess. Use passwords that each have a combination of uppercase, lowercase special characters and numbers. Never use the same password for each account and it’s also a good habit to change your password every few months.
It’s important to keep your computer up to date so it operates smoothly and securely. Never install updates from third party websites as you may risk downloading viruses onto your device. Windows and Apple routinely run updates to fix bugs and to stay ahead of threats.
How to make important software updates to your device:
Whether in or out of your home, having access to Wi-Fi is a must! A good practice is only to connect to secure networks. If you visit a friend or a relative, ask to connect to their WiFi and ask if it’s secured. You can also use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for increased security. When using a VPN, data sent back and forth between your computer and websites you visit is encrypted, making it difficult for hackers to read your information.
Always lock your screen or log out anytime you step away from your computer. Whether you’re in the office, a public shared workspace, or even at home with guests over, you don’t want anyone else to swipe personal information from your device. Anyone that’s computer savvy knows where to look and can compromise your privacy within minutes.
Always have a backup of all your data on your computer. Invest in a portable hard drive and keep it in a safe place and locked if possible. That way, if your computer becomes infected, all your precious photos, videos and important files aren’t gone forever. Set a reminder to back up your computer at least once every week.
Spam emails are all too common and you may receive ones that appear they’re from your bank, somewhere you routinely shop or from a program you use online. These can download viruses, malicious malware and spyware on your device. A phishing email might ask you to download an attachment, download software, or provide a link to enter your personal information. Trust us, a bank will never ask you to send private information online. The best thing to do is delete the message.
If you need software updates for programs you use, ensure it is from the creator’s website itself and not from a third-party site. Any software you download should be verified. A lot of these emails typically have poor spelling, pixelated graphics and are easy to spot.
We get it; we use our phones and computers a lot when away from our secured networks at home, so free, public Wi-Fi networks can seem like a blessing. However, public networks are not secure, especially those at places like coffee shops and airports. Once you connect to those, it makes your device easy bait for a hacker to steal your personal data.
Never open pop-ups on websites you visit, especially on consumer and e-commerce sites. Pop-ups are usually embedded with malicious software designed to trick you to verify or download something. Always ignore them, otherwise you risk being hacked.
The great thing about your PC or Mac is that they come with their own built in antivirus software; xProtect for Macs and Windows Defender for PCs. Aside from those, you should never download free antivirus software from a third-party. You can always arm your device with an extra layer of authorized protection, which you have to pay for. Paid antivirus software has multi-layered security that can block infected emails, malicious downloads and websites.
There are many sites to shop on and since you’re almost always asked to enter your credit card information to make a purchase, you want to make sure you don’t land on a spam site. Only shop on secure sites that are trusted, secure and reliable.
These days, it’s hard to know exactly what you need to do to protect your devices. Our experts at My Computer Works are certified technicians. We’re here to help answer your questions about cybersecurity and can offer tips on how to stay safe online. Give us a call, today!