Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Expert shares safety tips

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

cybersecurityPart I: How individuals can avoid cyberattacks

Spectacular fall foliage, pumpkins, gourds and haystacks, Trick or Treating – October is a month associated with many charms.

It is also Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and unlike A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger, cyber monsters are far scarier, claimed Mercyhurst University’s leading cybersecurity expert, Dr. Christopher Mansour.

As 2020 nears its end, the world has fallen prey to more than 445 million cyberattacks this year, and the pandemic has opened even more doors for cyber security threats, Mansour noted. 

Not all attacks can be averted, but individuals can take these six simple steps to minimize their risk.
For starters, observe password hygiene. As a memorable reminder, Mansour has often said: “Treat your password like your underwear; change it regularly and do not share it.” Select a strong password, preferably 10-12 characters, which is unique and not shared on other accounts. If Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is an option, utilize it as a second layer of security.

Second, to avoid falling prey to phishing campaigns, heighten your email awareness, particularly emails with links, unusual language, and/or a sense of urgency. Beware of emails disguised as originating from high-ranking employees at your organization and pay close attention to the actual email addresses of senders. When in doubt, approach the source via other means of communication, such as a chat service, phone call, or SMS (short message – iMessage etc.) for verification.

Third, be vigilant on social media; watch out for scams and misinformation as criminals frequently target these platforms to ensnare their victims.

Fourth, ensure that your machines (PCs and MACs) follow the necessary security hygiene. Keep operating systems current (Windows – hopefully you all switched to Windows 10 – and MacOS). Also be certain that your anti-malware software is updated with the latest signatures, which contain the latest lists of known viruses.

Fifth, secure your home network and Wi-Fi connection with the necessary protocols. The latest WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) protocols have an encryption component that scrambles the information being exchanged over your home network and prevents anyone from reading it. Consider configuring WPA-2 or WPA-3, if available.

Finally, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that encrypts and secures information while transferring any private or confidential information over a public Wi-Fi.

There are many resources and tools available to protect yourself and your information. You can find a list of some of them on the CISA website.

PART II coming Thursday.