Safety tips during cyber security awareness month

It’s October which is the National cyber security awareness month in the United States of America declared by Department of Homeland security. The importance of this initiative is to educate and drive awareness of cyber security issues for both individual consumers and businesses from the smallest startup to the largest multi-national corporation.

This year, President Barack Obama has partnered with National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) to start the month with a public awareness campaign, “Lock Down Your Login” which aims to encourage people to go beyond usernames and passwords for authentication purposes when online.

The national security awareness initiative which is a collaboration of public and private entities is in its 13th year which will hold five sessions.

Oct. 3-7: Everyday steps towards online safety with Stop. Think. Connect.

Oct. 10-14: Cyber from the break room to the board room.

Oct. 17-21: Recognizing and combating cybercrime.

Oct. 24-28: Our continuously connected lives: What’s your ‘app’-titude?

Oct. 31: Building resilience in critical infrastructure.

This initiative has the support of household names like CompTIA, Google, Microsoft and Visa. The list of supporting partners and sponsors is long which is a great example of the public and private sectors working together for a common good.

Cybercriminals take advantage of the speed, convenience and anonymity that internet provides. According to the White House, as many as 62% of successful data breaches could have been prevented with better use of authentication systems such as biometrics or dual-factor authentication to supplement usernames and passwords.

Criminals can send easy phishing e-mails to their victims posing themselves from Apple or Google’s security and ask for their password and usernames under various pretenses which they use to steal confidential information of the victims.

With various existent forms of cybercrimes like online identity theft, financial frauds, hacking, email spoofing, information forgery and intellectual property crime, it can wreak havoc on victim’s lives financially, emotionally and even physically. In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received nearly 500,000 consumer complaints about identity theft.

In order to escape being preyed by any such attacks, it’s important for every individual to put on some guards around and the foremost security is to protect your mobile, laptop or tablet with up-to-date security software and downloading the latest software which can act as the best guards against viruses, malware and other online threats.

It is equally important to resist providing your usernames and passwords in response to emails and text messages unless you are absolutely confirmed that the request is legitimate and if you are confirmed too, you need to contact the real company to find out if it was a scam or not.

To protect your passwords, you can utilize dual-factor authentication which will enable the device to send a one-time code to your mobile phone after you have entered the password. This will also take place if the log in has taken place from any unrecognized device.

Another problem with passwords is that for the sake of convenience, many people reuse the passwords at all online platforms. If the password is hacked at one platform, this makes it easy for the hacker to access all other accounts of the victim.

Passwords should also be changed regularly across all online accounts maintaining the rule to make them long, strong and unique with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.

To further protect your personal information, you should shred all statements and applications you get in the mail that you don’t want to keep, including credit card applications, insurance forms, financial statements, and billing statements for utilities.

It’s also important to use caution when logging on to public Wi-Fi networks and send personal information only to websites that are fully encrypted.

However, strong passwords are not enough to keep you safe. The security of your password may be compromised in a data breach of a company with which you do business or you may fall victim to a socially engineered spear phishing attack. Fortunately, however, there are other options including dual-factor authentication and biometrics such as fingerprints, methods that are convenient and strong enough to secure your online life.

It has been generally seen that the hacks go unreported for a long duration and media reports suggest that the event of the actual hack takes place a month or years ago before making it to the news. It’s important to change this attitude so that real time notification becomes the norm. The companies should start having discussions about this and cyber-education training program should be made mandatory for all employees.

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