Happy Cyber Security Awareness Month

    I’m still a little stunned that I flipped the calendar to October this morning. Where did summer go?

    And with October comes the annual Cyber Security Awareness Month, with a theme this year of “Our Shared Responsibility.” If nothing else, the theme is spot on because cybersecurity affects everyone, in one way or another, and we all have to do our part in preventing the spread of malware and protecting data. After all, according to a report put out by Symantec earlier this year, one in 274 emails contained malware, one in 358 emails was identified as phishing, and 2,305 websites are blocked per day — and those numbers are going to be higher in 2013.

    Those numbers directly correspond with a recent survey conducted by McAfee — an overwhelming number of people say they don’t feel completely safe online (90 percent). However, the survey found that there is still a disconnect between cybersecurity and mobile devices:

    63% feel their smartphones are safe from hackers yet – pointing to a strong disconnect – 57% have never backed up their devices by storing the information or data elsewhere and 63% have never installed security software or apps to protect against viruses or malware.

    Since this is the first day of Cyber Security Awareness Month, it is as good a time as any to look at your cybersecurity efforts. IT security company Shred-It emailed me a list of basic tips on how to better protect your computers and networks. I thought they were good enough to share and get the conversation started about cybersecurity efforts.  They are:

    • Defend your computer – Keep your software current, never turn off your firewalls and maintain your computer’s health through regular virus checks. If you’re a business, restrict access on computers to ensure that information is exchanged securely.
    • Practice password protection – Use passwords with a mix of numbers, letters and symbols, vary your passwords for different sites and do not share your passwords.
    • Think before you click – Make sure that attachments are from a safe sender before opening them and do not click links from unknown sources or in pop-ups.
    • Keep your personal information safe – Check for webpage security by looking for https in the URL and the padlock icon in the URL bar before entering sensitive data. Never give out personal information like account details in response to email, IM or social network requests.
    • Know your internet profile – Search the Internet to see what information is available about you (i.e. address, phone number, birthdate, hometown, etc.). Evaluate whether this information can put you at risk for identity theft.
    • Be aware of risk offline –Think your digital security is up to par? Don’t forget that your hard drives contain sensitive information. Be mindful of this when disposing of old drives and computers.
    • Train to prepare – The best way to mitigate risk is through proper training of staff on information security policies. Individuals should maintain a personal cyber security plan and educate children and family members on ways to protect themselves.
    • Designate a cyber-security-based manager – or management team if bandwidth allows – to develop a protocol for mitigating against and appropriately handling cyber security attacks. 
    Sue Poremba
    Sue Poremba
    Sue Poremba is freelance writer based on Central PA. She's been writing about cybersecurity and technology trends since 2008.

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