It’s time to fall into stronger identity protection habits. October is National Cyber Awareness Month. It’s also the seventh year for the Stop. Think. Connect. campaign—a comprehensive online security awareness program championed by ID Watchdog plus hundreds of other data security organizations worldwide.
The concept is simple. Before you connect online, stop and reflect on your security plan. Each and every time you use your device. Think about the possible fraudsters trying to scam you with bogus emails, etc. Then and only then should you connect.
The risks abound. They’re as near as hacker’s free WiFi at the corner coffee shop or your inbox where phishing emails lurk as messages that appear to be from your boss or a good friend. Malware infests numerous sites on the Web—even on occasion the news sites you turn to for updates on the latest data hack.
There are three key elements in this month’s campaign.
Lock Down Your Login
72 percent of Americans believe their accounts are secure with only usernames and passwords, yet every two seconds another individual falls victim to identity fraud.
“Lock Down” simply means the use of additional authentications. Examples include fingerprints, a retina scan, a texted code number, or a USB authenticator that you have in your possession. Two-factor authentication requires the use of two identifiers—something you have and something you know. The most familiar example is your ATM card. You have the card, and you know your PIN.
Own Your Online Presence
“Owning your online presence is actively managing your privacy and staying current with new ways to stay safe online such as using available tools – like privacy and security settings – to manage who sees the things you post online and with whom you share information,” campaign organizers say.
So evaluate everything before you post it online because that data can and will impact your offline life.
Should you post your vacation details online? Nope. What about a photo of your boarding pass? Even worse. Each and every item you post—even those uploaded to services like SnapChat which claims the data will disappear—could be captured in a screen shot that comes back to haunt you. If you wonder first what a prospective employer would think of the post, you’ll get the picture.
This campaign element urges all consumers to own up to the undeniable responsibility they have for what appears online.
Keep a Clean Machine
Don’t become a botnet! Hundreds of thousands of computer users worldwide are part of a botnet army—a massive network of compromised computers that send out spam and otherwise foul the internet with malware. Most are totally unaware that someone has drafted their computers into this automated network.
Microsoft offers this great read about botnets, explaining how so many computers are used without the owner’s knowledge.
“It’s not always easy to tell if your computer has been infected with malware. If it is unusually slow, crashes or stops responding frequently, for example, these problems might be signs that your computer has been infected. However, the same problems might also point to hardware or software issues that have nothing to do with malware,” the software giant warns.
There are several steps you should take to fight against this threat:
- Keep anti-virus software up to date. Yes, you too, Mac users! Check the discovery rate for your specific anti-virus plan. Websites abound with anti-virus reviews but try to zero in on those that are truly independent. The results may just surprise you; it’s not the biggest names that are doing the best jobs. Sometimes, the most expensive plans or best-known name companies lag in detecting new strains of malware and viruses.
- If you are concerned about a particular feature like ransomware protection, gamer mode coverage, or infected file quarantine, make sure your product is considered adept in scanning for those security risks.
- Most software vendors will offer a 30-day free trial. Take it for a test drive before you buy.
- Set your operating system to update automatically whenever new security patches are released if you’re prone to ignoring update alerts
- Don’t turn off your firewall. It could be all that stands between your computer and bot-seekers.
- Be skeptical of all emails. Some could bring malware-infested images. Others could try to trick you into downloading malware while delivering virus ‘alerts.’
This October, Think Mobile
Privacy and security concerns don’t end when you switch from laptop to smart phone. There are numerous risks for your mobile device, too. Make sure you take the same steps to secure smaller devices like phones and tablets.
This month, campaign champions including ID Watchdog will be pushing the campaign’s key slogans. Here are just a few:
- Privacy is like money: Value it, protect it
- Share with Care
- Be Web Wise
- Safer for Me, More Secure For All
- Get Two Steps Ahead
You get the message. For more details, check out stopthinkconnect.org.
If you have a security tip to share that has helped you, share it with us at email@example.com.