Cybersecurity Awareness Month - Be #CyberAware All Year Long

Resources to keep yourself and your business safe...

October marked National Cyber Security Awareness month. This annual event has taken place since 2004 as a joint effort between the Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance. The Alliance is a non-profit public-private partnership of leading tech firms and non-profit organizations working to promote cyber safety for both individuals and businesses. It has an interesting website with an excellent resource library on cyber safety.

To celebrate the month I published a series of articles on how to recognize and avoid sharing fake news (fake news on the web, recognizing fake news, avoid sharing fake news, role of technology).

The Awareness Month theme for 2019 was:

  • Own It. Keep personal and business devices, as well as online lives, safe.
  • Secure It. Take necessary steps to protect digital data.
  • Protect It. Continuous protection of digital data is essential for both businesses and individual users.

Tips for Individuals.

  • Keep your devices safe. Here’s a great set of links to the privacy settings on many popular devices and services.
  • Be sure all software and apps are kept up-to-date. The updates often provide vital security patches.
  • As I’ve pointed out before, apps are prone to leaking data and it’s important to check the privacy settings on them.
  • To secure it, NCSA says, “Shake Up Your Passphrase Protocol: Consider using the longest password or passphrase permissible. Get creative and customize your standard passphrase for different sites, which can prevent cybercriminals from gaining access to these accounts and protect you in the event of a breach.” Now tell me, who is going to do that manually, even to stay safer online? It’s essential (and more convenient) to use a password manager to create and access strong passwords.
  • Multi-factor authentication is a good idea, especially on accounts that are financially important or ones that could affect your social reputation.
  • Be safe when you shop online, looking for things like secure websites and well-reviewed products.
  • Avoid phishing scams. NCSA has some good tips, and I’ve published several articles on the subject.
  • Be careful in how you discard devices. Remnants of data remain even though the user has deleted accounts, wiped history, and removed all files. There are professional organizations that have events to facilitate careful disposal, but I can find none of those in Mass. Here’s a set of basic instructions from the FTC and a more detailed one that has a lot of good ideas. They include donating used devices to many worthwhile organizations after having carefully wiped data from them.

Tips for Businesses

A 2018 study found that 58% of cyberattack victims were small businesses, ones with fewer than 250 employees. Small businesses are not immune from cyberattacks. They often lack the resources for full-time professional security experts, so owners and managers need to be personally vigilant.

NCAS has many resources to aid SMBs including this excellent summary chart. It has action recommendations for common issues and a link to excellent resources just for businesses.

Even the smallest businesses have their own operating and financial data that needs to be carefully guarded. Many have client or patient records that are valuable to cyber criminals. For the business’s own sake and for the welfare of its customers, security needs to be an important priority.

Being #CyberAware Year ‘Round

Protecting your personal or business data clearly adds a task to already-full lives. I have two simple suggestions to make it easier and therefore more effective:

  1. Make it part of your daily routine. Part of that is making sure your privacy settings and business policies are adequate. I have both my password manager and my VPN pinned to my Start menu, which means that I start every session by activating these two important safety tools. Think of other ways you can make what you need to do easy to do!
  2. Stay informed. That is the entire purpose of my sort-of-weekly articles on Cape Cod Today. I focus on current events in cybersecurity space and emphasize tools that can assist in dealing with threats and issues. It’s not beyond any of us to be safer online; we just have to give it a little regular attention!

So continue to be #CyberAware and you will avoid many of the internet’s messy situations. It will never be perfect, but a little awareness can go a long way!


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