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The Basic Steps to Online Safety and Security- NCSAM Week 1

Since our physical world has become so integrated with our technology, it’s not as easy as to protect it back when all we had to worry about was our computers and laptops. However, in this day and age, that is not the case. The threat landscape has evolved just as our technology has. The more devices that are out there equal more things for cybercriminals to attack.

Personal cybersecurity is a now a multi-pronged approach. It’s not as simple as installing antivirus on a computer anymore. A good foundation to personal cybersecurity is knowledge. Since threats don’t come solely in digital forms anymore, it’s a good idea to educate yourself about all of the threats out there.


Social Engineering
Social engineering is a way that cybercriminals can use a false sense of trust, urgency, or even scare tactics in order to trick you into divulging sensitive information. Social engineering is based on trying to elicit emotional reactions, in order to get you to act before thinking.

For a more in-depth look at this topic, you can check out:
What is Social Engineering?

Phishing
Phishing emails are a good example of how social engineering can take place online. These emails can appear to come from a legitimate company, or possibly even someone you know. The objective of these emails is to seem like a familiar or known source, therefore relying on a person’s instinct to trust them. The more familiar a sender seems, the more likely someone is likely to turn over seemingly harmless personal information. Phishers have been known to use real company logos, and will also use a fake email address that looks very similar to the company’s actual address.

For more information about phishing and how to protect yourself:
How To Protect Yourself From Phishing Scams
A Cold Calling Scammer - a Personal Experience

Malware
Often interchanged with the word virus; they are essentially the same things. A virus is actually a type of malware. There are many different types of malware that do many different types of things. There are also different ways you can get malware on your device- yep, it’s not just on computers anymore.
If you want a more comprehensive guide about malware you can start here:
Malware 101: What Is Malware?

Once you’ve started with your cybersecurity educational foundation, next you can learn about how you can take precautions to secure your devices.

Passwords
Passwords are the key to your entire digital life. One of the most important steps you can take is to ensure your digital security is to use strong, and secure passwords for each website you use.
It’s extremely important not to reuse the same password across multiple websites- by doing so, you’re essentially creating a digital master key.

If a service offers it, you should set up Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) whenever possible. This method adds another layer of security to any account you may be logging into. What makes this more secure is the fact that it is something that you have to provide in addition the usual username and password information. The third “thing” is usually one of the following:

  • Something you know – a pin number, password or pattern.
  • Something you have – an ATM or credit card, mobile phone or security token such as a key fob or USB token.
  • Something you are – Biometric authentication such as a voiceprint or fingerprint.

To take a deeper dive into password and online account security, you can read these articles:
How To Choose a Secure Password
Password Managers Are The Key To Secure Passwords
The Importance of Two-Factor Authentication

Software Updates
To most, these may seem like an annoyance, however they are vital to you device’s cyber “health.” Not all software is created perfectly, so vulnerabilities in the software do pop up from time to time. Attackers use these vulnerabilities as a way to infect your computer with malware. This is where software updates come in. These updates push out what is called a “patch,” which is just as it sounds, a fix for the vulnerability, and one more way to ensure malware isn’t snuck onto your device.

To learn more about software updates, you can read:
The Importance of General Software Updates and Patches
 

Data Back-up
In the event that something happens and you do contract malware, or even if you have a physical accident with your device, backing up your data will save your (digital) life. Physical devices are always replicable, however, digital data is irreplaceable. Always back up your device on a regular basis, and be sure to unplug your backup device when not in use.

For more tips on how to back up your devices read:
The Importance of Data Back-Up

Internet Security Software
Last, but not least by a long shot- always use a good Internet security software suite on your device. Coupled with a personal education about the cybersecurity landscape, a good Internet Security program such as Norton Security, will catch what you miss and help block the hidden threats lurking on the Internet.