National Cyber Security Awareness Month, Our Shared Responsibility

This year’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month highlights practical themes and procedures for businesses and consumers across the globe. According to the FTC, in 2016 13% of the complaints they received were identity theft-related, surpassed only by debt collection and imposter scams.

The 14th annual information sharing initiative has grown to include over a thousand “Champions” which pledge to promote a safer, more secure and more trusted internet. As a NCSAM Champion, SkOUT honors our pledge by bringing to light this week’s simple, but practical tips for consumers to avoid becoming another statistic:

  • Lock Down Your Login: From our vantage point, we have seen time and time again usernames and passwords fail to protect key accounts like email, banking, and social media. Compromised accounts cause reputational harm and embarrassment and put others at risk through the spread of malware and viruses. Strengthen online accounts and use strong authentication tools – like biometrics, security keys or a unique, one-time code through an app on your mobile device – whenever offered. If you are using cloud-based email services such as Office 365, you should enable multifactor authentication for access from the web.
  • Back it Up: Protect your valuable work, music, photos and other digital information by making an electronic copy and storing it safely. If you have a copy of your data and your device falls victim to ransomware or other cyber threats, you will be able to restore the data from a backup. A small investment in a portable hard drive will save you headache and grief down the road.  It is a worthwhile investment.
  • Personal Information is like Money. Value it. Protect it: In an age where we are all accustomed to obtaining merchandise at the click of a button, information about you, such as purchase history or location, has value – just like money. Be thoughtful about who gets that information and how it is collected by apps, websites and all connected devices. Always review what level of access websites and applications are requesting to your email accounts and data. If they request full access, you may want to rethink using that website or application.
  • Keep a clean machine: Keep all software on internet-connected devices, including personal computers, smartphone and tablets current with the latest software updates and patches to reduce the risk of infection from ransomware and malware. Many companies fell victim to the global ransomware infections (WannaCry, Petya, NotPetya, etc) because they didn’t update their Microsoft Operating System for months.
  • Own your online presence: Take ten minutes every so often to review your privacy and security settings on websites and social media platforms to make sure that you are comfortable with your level of information sharing. It is perfectly acceptable to limit how and with whom you and your family share information. Many sites update their terms of service and change their security settings.  When this happens, it is important to review and make changes to your security settings.
  • When in doubt, throw it out: Links in email, tweets, posts and online advertising are often how cybercriminals try to compromise your information. If a digital asset looks suspicious, even if you think you know the source, it’s best to delete or, if appropriate, mark it as junk.

Lastly, be you a Consumer, Executive or a Security Expert like professionals on the SkOUT team, remember to always consider the potential effect of the data and information you are keeping and storing online. In 2017 and onward, this is our shared responsibility.