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Chris Demetriou, ITSIT Security Specialist Chris Demetriou discusses ways to strengthen your cyber security and privacy. He stresses that awareness is your strongest ally for protecting yourself online.

Autumn is about upon us. And that means a new school year and soccer practice and football and raking. A new school year also brings more and better phishing, more bogus emails promising package deliveries from UPS and other providers, and additional suspicious pop-ups and websites while we’re searching online for back-to-school or early holiday deals.

Thankfully, we can avoid these relatively easily by paying close attention when online. Remember: the easiest way for an adversary to gain access is simply to ask you for it or to trick you into granting access by creating a lure so attractive and specific that you are almost guaranteed to fall for it.

Many infections occur when average users are searching for three things:

  • Coupons/deals
  • Images for desktop backgrounds and wallpapers
  • Free online games

Be especially careful when you drift from a direct internet search and find yourself venturing further and further into murky sites. Be wary of unfamiliar websites and apps. They’re often infected or malicious themselves or host infected advertisements. Either way, you are risking your privacy.

Your strongest ally is awareness. When online and when clicking links in emails, be actively engaged.

Here are a few easy things you can do to protect yourself:

1. Develop strong password habits:

  • Use a password manager.
  • Use strong and long passwords or passphrases.
  • Do not use the same password for multiple accounts.

2. Update your system software (time for Windows 10) and your applications often. When possible, set updates to be automatic.

3. Follow the practice of least privilege. If you had a master key to all the rooms in a building, and also just a key for your office there, it would be safer to just carry your office key on you, and not the master key (think what would happen if you lost the master key). Similarly, when logged on to your computer, don’t log on as the administrator. Log on as a user who has fewer privileges. Use administrator access only when needed to update or install software. Here is a quick how-to guide for Windows 10.

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