Cyber hygiene? That’s not something you hear every day. But you might just be hearing it a bit more this month – October is officially “National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.” The Department of Homeland Security is encouraging computer owners to take a few simple steps to protect themselves and their computers from cyber-disasters.
The DHS says that the theme, “Our Shared Responsibility,” is meant “to reinforce the message that all computer users, not just industry and government, have a responsibility to practice good cyber hygiene, and to protect themselves and their families at home, at work, and at school.”
They go on to give several simple steps that everyone can take to keep themselves safe online. We’ve discussed many of these same “cyber-hygiene” practices, but now is a good time to review them. (For a complete list with resources, visit http://www.staysafeonline .org/top-tips).
Know who you are dealing with online. Never give out personal information over the Internet and make sure that you do a little background research on any companies you wish to do business with. Also, don’t take the bait on unsolicited e-mail offers — they are probably phishing scams. Just like the trout at the bottom of the lake, you are wise to ignore the enticement altogether.
Keep your Web browsers and operating systems up to date. By using the most current versions of your Web browser and operating system you get up-to-date security patches and features. Stay ahead of the bad guys with professional updates.
Back up important files. Make sure you are prepared for the worst, even if you hope for the best. Take the time to back up your files through online services, external drives or other means.
Protect your children online. Make sure your children know and follow specific rules for Internet activity. Put your computer in a public location within your home and don’t be afraid to implement parental controls on your computer.
Use security software tools as your first line of defense. Use anti-virus, firewall, anti-spyware, and anti-phishing software to help protect your computer. These programs are readily available and some even come with your computer purchase.
Use strong passwords to protect your personal information. It is important to choose a strong password and to change it frequently. Be sure to choose a password that includes letters (upper and lower case), numbers and symbols.
Learn what to do if something goes wrong. Report Internet fraud to the Federal Trade Commission immediately (www.ftc.gov). You can forward deceptive spam to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your computer has stopped working correctly, you can always call Computer Problem Specialists at (928) 468-0000 for a free evaluation and diagnosis.
Daniel Taft is the senior network administrator and member/owner of Computer Problem Specialists, LLC with a degree in applied computer science. His career spans more than 20 years.