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Cybersecurity awareness and strategies

This October marks the 20th year of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which is dedicated to increasing the collective understanding of different types and forms of cyber threats to create a safer online space. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA) work together to supply readily available, comprehensive materials on how to avoid, identify and handle cyberattacks.

Here are some useful cybersecurity tips to consider:

  • Utilize multi-factor password protection. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) tools are one of the best things you can do to protect yourself online. There are different variations of MFAs including pin numbers, security questions, confirmation texts and outside apps. The strongest method is biometric data, a fingerprint or faceID, for example. 
  • Craft unique and strong passwords. Your password is your first line of defense against hackers trying to get into your personal data, so use the strongest one possible to stop them in their tracks. The CISA recommends using the maximum number of characters allowed, ideally 15 characters, and to use a combination of numbers, letters and symbols. 
  • Don’t fall for phishing. Phishing messages are designed to steal your personal information or infect your machine through links or attachments. You can investigate links from an unknown sender by typing them into a browser by hand or hovering over it to see it’s true destination. The best way to tackle phishing is to not engage: don’t respond, share information or click. Report the email and find the organization’s real contact information on their website. 
  • Update your device. Phone, computer and software developers take action to fight fraudsters going after their customers’ information via various updates that they provide. It is crucial to do these updates promptly, and to check your device regularly for updates that are not automatic or go unnoticed.    
  • Beware of public Wi-Fi. While free coffee shop Wi-Fi is appreciated, public Wi-Fi is a dangerous place. Hackers create fake networks to access anyone who uses its information, so it is imperative to confirm the real network’s name and login. Additionally, when on public WiFi be sure to avoid accessing personal accounts like banking or credit card information and make sure the sites you visit are safe themselves (most links beginning with https:// are safe, along with ones with a padlock on the browser bar).

In general, practicing cybersecurity is about using your best judgement and critical thinking to evaluate your activity online and being mindful to avoid pitfalls. To learn more about Cybersecurity Awareness Month, visit Cybersecurity Awareness Month | CISA