When you’re in the tech industry, there’s more to October than Halloween: This month is Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
Cybersecurity Awareness Month was started in 2004 by the National Cyber Security Alliance and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. For 2020, the theme of Cybersecurity Awareness Month is “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.” The goal of this year’s theme is to empower both individuals and organizations to really own their role in protecting each of their parts of cyberspace, with the key message being, “If you connect it, protect it.”
This message is more important than ever, with 2020 on track to set a new record for data breaches. In the first quarter of 2020 alone, 8.4 billion records were exposed. Researchers have also predicted a massive increase in successful attacks related to the global pandemic. So, regardless of whether you are a business owner, student, or casual computer user, here are three tips to help you #BeCyberSmart.
Let’s start with the one that should be the easiest of them all, your passwords. To start, think of your passwords like underpants; which means you shouldn’t share them with others, don’t leave them out for everyone to see, and change them regularly.
Passwords should be long and complicated. It’s time to stop using passwords like password123, iloveyou, 123456, Password1. Yes, those are real passwords and those four passwords can all be found on the top 100 passwords used within the United States in 2020. When using a password, make sure you use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Even better, create a phrase as your password, as that will take a computer years to calculate, such as IreallythinkhavingalongPasswordisgreat2020.
Now that you have your passwords all setup, next we move onto “Think Before You Click!” Have you ever received a suspicious email? When in doubt, don’t click!
With cybercriminals using email as their preferred method of transporting viruses and malware, it is better to delete it than take your chances. Since 92% of malware is delivered via email, you need to be especially vigilant when opening emails that you aren’t expecting. If you aren’t expecting to inherit 500 million dollars, and you most likely aren’t actually related to the prince of Persia, you probably want to ignore that email. We can all dream, but more than likely, clicking on that link will just end with you having your computer and all its data infected and ransomed.
Finally, as we said above, if you connect it, protect it. With more and more devices being online, there is even more to worry about. To start, all computers must be running advanced endpoint protection, and we highly recommend breach monitoring software. To answer all you Apple users out there, yes, you also need endpoint protection. Unlike popular belief, Apple products are not immune from cyber threats and breaches. And you can’t just stop at your computer nowadays, either. Think about it; what other devices that you own are connected to the internet? Well let me give you just a few examples of connected devices: thermostats, appliances, speakers, televisions, toys…this list can honestly go on and on, which is even more of a reason to think with security first, and remember, if you connect it, protect it!
Mike Bloomfield is the president of Staten Island-based information technology company Tekie Geek.