Cybersecurity means more than just coming up with a strong, unique password for your online banking, although that’s a great start. Our actions online have the potential to put us, our families, and even our country at risk.
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, an opportunity for everyone to step up--from the average smartphone user to a corporate CEO--and better understand their shared role in our country’s cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity refers to measures that everyone can take to protect devices, data and networks from unauthorized access. Cybersecurity is not just the responsibility of governments, companies, groups or individuals. We are all connected in cyberspace and have a role to play in cybersecurity.
Unlike physical threats that prompt immediate action–like stop, drop and roll in the event of a fire–cyber threats are often difficult to identify and comprehend. So what might a cyber threat look like?
Malware erasing entire systems
Intruders breaking into security systems and changing corporate files
Intruders using your computer or device to attack others
Intruders stealing confidential information on social media or from your company
“Ransomware” holding your device and data hostage in exchange for payment
Intruders using phishing campaigns to steal your account logins/passwords, steal your identity, or sensitive data
Although cyberattacks start in the electronic realm, they have the potential to have real-world impacts. For example, a hack to a department of transportation network could impact traffic signals.
What can you do?
Enable stronger authentication. Stronger authentication (e.g., multi-factor authentication that can use a one-time code texted to a mobile device) helps verify that a user has authorized access to an online account. For more information about authentication, visit the Lock Down Your Login Campaign at www.lockdownyourlogin.org.
Make your passwords long & strong. Use complex passwords with a combination of numbers, symbols and letters. Use unique passwords for different accounts. Change your passwords regularly, especially if you believe they have been compromised.
Keep a clean machine. Update the security software, operating system and web browser on all of your Internet-connected devices. Keeping your security software up-to-date will prevent attackers from taking advantage of known vulnerabilities.
When in doubt, throw it out. Links in email and online posts are often the way cyber criminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious (even if you know the source), delete it.
Share with care. Limit the amount of personal information you share online and use privacy settings to avoid sharing information widely.
Secure your Wi-Fi network. Your home’s wireless router is the primary entrance for cybercriminals to access all of your connected devices. Secure your Wi-Fi network and digital devices by changing the factory-set default password and username.
Sign up for cybersecurity alerts, tips and updates from United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT)
Sign up to receive the monthly Stop. Think. Connect newsletter from the Department of Homeland Security.
For additional information on how to take steps to protect yourself and your community from cyber threats visit https://www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.
Visit “BeCyberSmart” for cyber safety information for young adults. Learn about cybersecurity basics, common scams and how to report cybersecurity incidents by visiting https://www.dhs.gov/be-cyber-smart/campaign
Increase your knowledge with cybersecurity training. The Federal Virtual Training Environment (FedVTE) is a free online, on-demand cybersecurity training system that is available at no charge for government personnel and veterans.
Want to incorporate cybersecurity lessons into your classroom? The National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center (NICERC) provides hands-on professional development, free cybersecurity curricula to K-12 teachers, and programs and competitions to engage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.
Research additional information about cyberattacks, beginning with the following resources.
(sources: ready.gov, US Department of Homeland Security)