October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month!

Do Your Part. Be CyberSmart

2020 – Week 1

If You Connect it, Protect it.

by Terri McDermott

The line between our online and offline lives has become indistinguishable. Our computers, smartphones, cars, home security systems, wearable devices, and other tools are part of our daily routine. For many of us, this may seem to have happened very quickly. But our children have not lived in a world where computers and the Internet did not exist. To them, this Internet of Things (IoT) or smart devices that send and receive data in an instant is normal.

New Internet-connected devices do provide a level of convenience in our lives, but they require that we share more information than ever.  The security of this information, and the security of these devices, is not always guaranteed. We’re using a variety of networks, each with differing levels of protection – at home, public Wi-Fi, our place of work. Some of these networks are well protected; others may not be protected at all. Once your device connects to the Internet, you and your device could potentially be vulnerable to all sorts of risks.  Think of the applications and information we are accessing, such as bank accounts, social media, online shopping, health and medical services, and business applications.  With more of this IoT entering our homes and our workplaces each day, it is important that everyone knows how to secure their digital lives.

No matter what devices you are using, the best defense is to regularly update them with the latest security software, web browser, and operating systems. If you have the option to enable automatic updates to defend against the latest risks, turn it on.  Here are some tips:

  • Shake up your password protocol. Change your device’s factory security settings from the default password. This is one of the most important steps to take in the protection of IoT devices. According to NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) guidance, consider using the longest password or passphrase permissible. Get creative and create a unique password for each of your IoT devices.  
  • Keep tabs on your apps. Many connected appliances, toys, and devices are supported by a mobile application. Your mobile device could be filled with apps running in the background or using default permissions you never realized you approved— gathering your personal information without your knowledge while also putting your identity and privacy at risk. Check your app permissions and learn to just say “no” to privilege requests that don’t make sense. Only download apps from trusted vendors and sources.
  • Secure your network. Properly secure the wireless network you use to connect Internet-enabled devices. Consider placing these devices on a separate and dedicated network. For more information on how you can secure your network, view the National Security Agency’s Cybersecurity Information page. (https://nsa.gov)

If you connect, you must protect. Keeping the digital world secure requires all of us to be proactive and diligent. Learn more about how you can at staysafeonline.org

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