October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

Created as a joint effort between government and industry, National Cybersecurity Month (NSCM) aims to provide Americans with the resources they need to be safer and more secure online. This year’s theme, “Own it. Secure it. Protect it.” emphasizes personal accountability and the importance of being proactive to enhance cybersecurity.

Some steps you can take to protect your personal information online include:

  • Double your login protection. Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) to ensure that the only person who has access to your account is you. Multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security by requiring someone who is trying to access an account to provide two or more pieces of information that uniquely identifies that person. Use MFA for email, banking, social media and any other service that requires logging in.
  • Shake up your password protocol. According to National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) guidance, you should consider using the longest password or passphrase permissible. Get creative and customize your standard password for different sites, which can prevent cybercriminals from gaining access to these accounts and protect you in the event of a breach.
  • If you connect, you must protect. Whether it’s your computer, smartphone or other network device, the best defense against viruses and malware is to update to the latest security software, web browser and operating systems. Sign up for automatic updates, if you can, and protect your devices with antivirus software.
  • Play hard to get with strangers. Cybercriminals use phishing tactics, hoping to fool their victims. If you’re unsure who an email is from—even if the details appear accurate—or if the email looks “phishy,” do not respond and do not click on any links or attachments found in that email. When available use the “junk” or “block” option to no longer receive messages from a particular sender.
  • Never click and tell. Limit what information you post on social media, from personal addresses to where you like to grab coffee. These seemingly random details are what criminals need to know to target you, your loved ones and your physical belongings, online and in the physical world. Keep Social Security numbers, account numbers, and passwords private, as well as specific information about yourself, such as your full name, address, birthday and even vacation plans. Disable location services that allow anyone to see where you are at any given time.
  • Keep tabs on your apps. Most connected appliances, toys and devices are supported by a mobile application. Your mobile device could be filled with suspicious 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 use the “rule of least privilege” to delete what you don’t need or no longer use. Learn to just say “no” to privilege requests that don’t make sense. Only download apps from trusted vendors and sources.
  • Stay protected while connected. Before you connect to any public wireless hotspot, be sure to confirm the name of the network and exact login procedures with appropriate staff to ensure that the network is legitimate. If you do use an unsecured public access point, practice good Internet hygiene by avoiding sensitive activities (e.g., banking) that require passwords or credit cards. Your personal hotspot is often a safer alternative to free Wi-Fi. Only use sites that begin with “https://” when online shopping or banking.

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