National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) is held annually in October as a reminder to individuals and businesses to check that they are doing all they can to keep themselves, their employees and their customers as safe as possible. Each year has a “theme” to it, and for 2019 the slogan is:
OWN IT. SECURE IT. PROTECT IT.
The idea behind this is to help us all take responsibility for our online actions, to ensure that we are aware of threats and have taken the necessary steps to stay safe.
We live in a connected world, one in which it has become increasingly difficult to avoid going online. Be it for business, education, keeping in touch, shopping or banking, our world has moved online. It can be easy to take it for granted and not to think about what we are using to access the internet or how we are accessing it. Education is the first line of defense in staying safe; understanding your devices and the applications that you use every day, being aware of the threats that are out there, and knowing the steps you can take to protect yourself.
Keeping yourself secure includes understanding privacy settings, knowing what information online shopping sites have stored about you, whether the WiFi you are accessing is secure, and for businesses, whether your employees are taking devices from the work place and how and what they are then being used for.
You can help to protect yourself against cyber threats by learning about the security features available on the equipment and software you that you use. We highly recommend using additional layers of security to your devices – like Multi-Factor Authentication – wherever possible, and the case for using strong and multiple passwords remains the same.
If you are a business, we recommend you lock down your systems and have every device encrypted. One of the largest areas of security breaches remains employee mistakes. We are all human, we can all make a mistake, but there are systems you can utilise that minimise those mistakes ensuring your business stays as secure as possible.
We all have a digital profile – every click, share, send, and post that you do creates your digital trail that can potentially be exploited by cybercriminals. Be aware of what you are posting online and where.
Use multi-factor authentication wherever you can, for email, banking, social media, and any other services that require logging in.
Get creative with your passwords – websites that retain “Admin” as a username are a golden opportunity for cybercriminals. Your online presence has possibly included using names of children, pets or addresses, all of which can potentially be found with minimal effort and exploited.
Virus protection and backups are the most basic essentials you need on all of your devices. Keep all your software, operating systems and websites up to date.
Only download apps from trusted vendors and sources and revisit your app permissions. Reacquaint yourself with your social media privacy settings – you may have set them up several years ago but most social media sites will have changed things since you initially set them up.
Think about alternatives to public WiFi. Tempting as it is to hop on something that is free, public WiFi is an easy target for others to access your information by “seeing” what you are doing online. A VPN is a must for businesses whose employees are taking devices out of the protected office environment.
We all need to keep on top of our own security and take responsibility for our own data. For businesses this is even more of a priority as you have been entrusted not only with your own data but information pertaining to your customers and partners as well. Cybercriminals will always look for an easy way in, so ensure that you leave no doors unlocked.