Celebrate Cybersecurity Awareness Month with these Four Simple Tips

Erin McCowey
October 20, 2021

In the same way that you have been taking the necessary hygiene steps to protect yourself during the pandemic, it is equally as important to take the same care when it comes to cybersecurity and your online life. Cyber threats can happen anywhere and to anyone - at home or at work, to yourself or a loved one. Each October, a collaborative effort is made to celebrate Cybersecurity Awareness Month where all online safety stakeholders raise awareness and ensure all Internet users have the resources needed to stay safe and secure online. To fully participate in the ever-expanding digital world means to keep your personal information as protected as possible.

Follow along for 4 cybersecurity tips helpful for everyone in your family:

Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) serves as a necessary secondary security check to verify your identity when logging into or accessing your online accounts. It prevents bad actors from gaining access to your personal information even if they know the password because commonly, a unique one-time use code will be sent to a trusted device after entering your password. While some platforms and services allow you to “ignore” prompts to turn on MFA, or 2-Factor Authentication, enabling it puts an added step between you and hackers attempting to compromise your accounts. In addition, remember to use long and complex, yet easy to remember, passwords for all accounts. 

Complete Software and Hardware Updates

Seeing the notification to update your software is one of those things we tell ourselves we will do tomorrow if we have time. But by ignoring the update, your device is at risk without the latest security software, browser, or operating system that provides the best protection against known online threats and security gaps. So put time in your calendar if necessary, but make sure to update with each new software release. And if you prefer to wait until your tech devices are well-loved before upgrading to the next phone, computer, or tablet, make sure that your device is still compatible with the latest software update. If not, it is probably a good time to upgrade and get to know the latest tech.

Don’t Go Phishing

Phishing scams are one of the most common cybersecurity risks out there because hackers can make their content seem clever and legitimate. But there are some things to look for when reviewing emails or other online communication. Be aware of awkward formatting, urgent subject lines, and logos and branding that look slightly off. Importantly, be wary of clicking hyperlinks and opening suspicious attachments as they may be an attempt to gain personal information. But how do you know what a phishing attempt is in the first place? They come in a variety of ways, but one common way is through impersonation of someone you already know in order for you to think they are trustworthy. If that is the case, reach out to that individual directly through a different communication tool to confirm whether the message is authentic and safe.

Tips For Your Hybrid Work Environment

If you find yourself bouncing between the office and working from home, there are some important things to remember to keep your devices and work protected from cyber threats. First, be sure to follow all recommendations from your organization’s IT department about security precautions. If you don’t have access to one, here are some suggestions: 

  • Never use public computers or Wifi to connect to your devices. It may be tempting to go to the local coffee shop or library to get a change of scenery but with that comes unsecure networks. If you do need to go out, keep your online activities as generic as possible and don’t access private information like banking, shopping, or exposing your location.
  • Turn off Wifi or Bluetooth when idle. When Wifi or Bluetooth are on, they can track your location. If you just need to access word processing software or do some reading, consider switching off Wifi and doing work “offline.”

While implementing any one of these suggestions is an important step forward in protecting yourself from cyber threats, implementing all four of these tips can make a true difference in the level of protection and safety you’ll feel online. For more information about Cybersecurity Awareness Month, visit the National Cyber Security Alliance website and learn more about the 2021 theme, “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.

Written by

Erin McCowey

Erin McCowey is the program coordinator for the Family Online Safety Institute where she supports the Good Digital Parenting and Global Resource and Information Directory (GRID) initiatives.

She is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan where she studied Political Science and International Studies. She previously interned at FOSI in the summer of 2016 and the fall of 2017 and researched US States for GRID and wrote blog posts for GDP.