Common Sense Tips for Cybersecurity

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is every October, but we need to be on guard against cyberattacks year round. Here are some tips you can use to keep your home and business secure from cyberattacks.

Government, private industry, and individuals all face a growing threat from cyberattacks. The attacks can come from foreign countries, terrorists, criminal groups, or individual hackers.

Cyberattacks can steal government and private information, cause damage to our computer systems, create disruptions, deny service, and shut down our power grids nationwide.

In recognition of the growing threat, government and private industry are both working towards a better defense of our vital computer systems.

The Defense Department offers some good, common-sense advice that I’d like to pass on:

  • Always know who you are dealing with online. Do not open unsolicited e-mails or go to websites that look “off.” Check the domain identifier. Some shady sites use the name of actual sites, but with a different identifier — a dot com instead of a dot gov.
  • Keep web browsers and operating systems up to date.
  • Back up important files to CDs, thumb drives, or external hard drives at least once a month.
  • Protect your children online. The media are full of stories about predators who haunt the Internet. Officials recommend using parental controls.
  • Use security software tools as your first line of defense. Many companies specialize in cybersecurity software. One hopeful development in the research world is that researchers writing new software often do that with security in mind.
  • Use strong passwords or strong authentication technology to help protect personal information. Even after much emphasis over the years on security, a common password is still “password.” Most security officials recommend passwords with combinations of numbers, capital and lowercase letters, and special characters. Other verification procedures include fingerprints and retina scans, though they can be expensive. And though it should go without saying, don’t write down your password and put it on a note next to your computer.
  • Learn what to do if something goes wrong. Even if you’re careful, your computer could be compromised. What now? One answer is to call the company that makes your security software, or the place you bought the computer. Or you can call one of the many groups that troubleshoot computers. Keep the phone numbers for your security software’s manufacturer and the place where you bought your computer somewhere safe. They don’t do any good sitting on your hard drive if something goes wrong.

Although National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is October, every business person and individual should think about cybersecurity every day.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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