This month marks the 15th year of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM)—an annual initiative designed to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and provide resources to help Americans stay safe online.
Cybersecurity is a broad term used to describe different protective measures you can take to keep your computer and personal information safe. It encompasses a number of different topics, from being aware of malware and phishing to securing your home network and more.
To celebrate NCSAM, here are three security tips to help protect you from a cyber attack:
Keep a clean machine. Regularly update your security software and scan your internet-connected devices for viruses. Keeping your devices free from malware and infections makes the internet more secure for you and everyone around you. If you suspect that your computer is infected, immediately take steps to remove the malware. Then, change your password and ensure that your operating system, web browsers, and antivirus software are up to date.
Protect your passwords. Don’t make passwords that are too simple or easy to guess, like the names of people you know or important dates. Instead, create passwords with at least eight characters and incorporate a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. When given the option, always choose to enable stronger authentication. It’s also important to use different passwords for different accounts so that if an attacker is able to guess one password, they won’t have access to all of your accounts.
Connect to secure networks. Before connecting to any public Wi-Fi network—like at an airport, hotel, or coffee shop—confirm the name of the network and login procedures with appropriate staff to ensure that the network is legitimate. You should avoid doing sensitive activities, like online banking, while using an unsecured public connection. When possible, use your personal hotspot instead of free Wi-Fi—it’s usually a safer alternative.
If you want to learn more about how to stay safe online, check out the Department of Homeland Security’s Stop. Think. Connect. campaign. The campaign’s toolkit includes educational resources that are specialized for different audiences, like children, college students, small businesses, and more.
Guest Blogger: August Braun, Communications Intern at TDS Telecom and a journalism student at UW-Madison.