Every October, the National Institute for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS) celebrates National Cybersecurity Month. It’s a time for public outreach, raising awareness about the little steps Americans can take to stay safer online. The theme is, “Do your part. #becybersmart.” It’s always a relevant message, but this year, Cybersecurity Month has a deeper meaning. Ever since March, many workers who were used to coming into the office every day and doing their work on a designated work computer with a secure hard drive have started telecommuting. That means working over VPNs and other online services that are inherently less secure, and it usually means working from the same computer you use for gaming and online shopping. What are some good habits you can get into to keep your personal and professional information separate and safe?
- Use strong and differentiated passwords. A number of major corporate data hacks in recent years have served as a reminder that it’s dangerous to use the same credentials for online stores as you do for your job. If you do, and your favorite clothing company is hacked, your default username and password are going to be on the black market. Use a different strong password for everything you do and keep track using a password vault (with, of course, a strong password of its own) or, better yet, pen and paper.
- Be especially careful with social media. When you’re updating your passwords, be sure to use an extra strong one for whichever social media account you use most often. Social media is valuable to phishers, scammers who send you targeted emails asking for your personal information. A phisher who has your Twitter open in another tab can impersonate your friends or coworkers, or claim to be from a company you shop with often, to trick you into sending them personal information.
- Use multi-factor authentication. Turn on multi-factor authentication on any accounts on which you keep private data. That means that when you try to log in on your computer, you’ll receive a text on your phone asking if the person logging in is really you. It can be a bit annoying, particularly if you don’t keep your phone at your side at all times, but it remains the fastest and easiest available way to shut down an attempted hack.
- Back up your files. Rates of ransomware attacks more than tripled last year. Attackers were able to break into corporate and civic computer systems and seal off some of their files, demanding money to unlock them. There’s no reason to believe that ransomware attacks won’t continue to rise, but you can take simple measures to render them powerless. Back up your files regularly on secure external hard drives, then unplug the hard drives and put them in a closet. A large hard drive can cost up to $200, but it can save you millions.
Do your part to #becybersmart this Cyber Month. Stay safe and keep your company safe.