In a guest post for National Cyber Security Awareness Month, Alex Everett, Information Security Engineer at Information Technology Services, discusses ways to help protect your online safety.
If you’re like the average person, rarely a day goes by without you seeing a headline about a new data breach, a malicious piece of software that encrypts your data, or how governments are surveilling their citizens without due cause. And you might wonder how best to keep yourself safe while online, given the foregoing. One solution seems simple enough. You could just Google key words related to your concerns (for example “prevent identity theft”). But then the problem is, which of the approximate 10,400,000 results do you look at? Which recommendation do you act on?
A better way to keep yourself safe online may be to emulate information security experts. According to a paper by Google researchers, the guidance given by security experts and others have significance differences.
Experts believe the most important factor affecting your security on the Internet is how well your software is kept up-to-date. One simple way to perform this check is to use an online tool such as Qualys Browser Check which can be found at https://browsercheck.qualys.com.
Experts also put more effort into using different passwords on different sites as opposed to using just one or two very strong passwords. I believe the reasoning behind this decision is that some websites have poor security and may inadvertently expose your password. If that is the same password you use for banking then an attacker may be able to log in to your banking site.
The last difference we will discuss is the use of two-factor or multi-step authentication. Popular sites such as Facebook, Fidelity and Gmail offer this added layer of protection for your account. Rather than relying solely on passwords that can be easily stolen and re-used, two-factor often requires a code generated via an app or SMS text message. As these codes are sent to a specific phone or phone number, this code is difficult for hackers to obtain and the hackers cannot log in to your accounts without it.
October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Visit ITS News throughout October for posts offering cyber security advice from experts and other tech tips. For additional cyber security tips and to check out the activities and resources associated with National Cyber Security Awareness Month, visit the national campaign’s website.