October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, created by the Department of Homeland Security, to increase knowledge about cyber terrorism and every day cyber threats.   This is week 1 and the topic is “Simple Steps To Online Safety,” so we created a list of 5 things we felt everyone should know to help them become safer online.

  1. Do not use the same password for every internet site.  I know, I can already hear you saying “There is no way I am going to be able to remember different passwords for my LinkedIn, Facebook, Shutterfly, Snapchat, GMail, Hulu, etc.”  However, it is critical that you use different, AND UNIQUE, passwords because so many sites on the internet get hacked, and your email and password will get stolen.  If your passwords are ll he same, 1 hack turns into full access to every single account you have.  If you have too many logins to remember than investing in password software such as LastPass or 1Password can help simplify the process.
  2. Be smart with your clicking.  Do not just click on pop-ups or links willy-nilly.  Be selective and careful in what you click on, and what pages you visit. If you receive an email with an attachment that you were not expecting, even if it appears to come from someone you know, verify it was sent intentionally BEFORE you click on it.  Always err on the side of caution
  3. Do not use public wifi for anything other than surfing the web.  Once upon a time, only Starbucks offered free wifi, but now almost every coffee shop, restaurant, and waiting room offers free wifi to satisfy our online addictions.  The problem is, public wifi is inherently NOT safe.  Unless you are using a virtual private network (VPN), your information that is being transferred wirelessly can be stolen right out of the air.  While you are on public wifi you should never log into a web page that requires you to enter a username and password, as that data can easily be stolen by anyone on the same wifi with software called packet sniffers.  If you absolutely must use public wifi, than wherever possible you should enable two-factor authentication, which means the website will require your password and also an automated key that can texted to your phone.  Even if someone steals your password, they will not have your phone to get the 2nd automated key.
  4. Use multiple random words in your password.  Rule of thumb, the longer the password, the harder it is to crack.  Stringing multiple random words together like “GoatAutomobileYardStore” is infinitely harder to crack than “P@$$word1!”   If you can throw in a few symbols like “!” or “$” it will be even harder to crack.  Don’t use your kids’ names or your birthday or other information readily available in your social media content.
  5. Keep your computers, laptops, phones, tablets, etc up to date with security patches.  When a security patch comes out for software or hardware you are using, you should install it immediately.  143 million people could have been saved from having their personal information stolen if Equifax had just applied the security patch for their website software in a timely manner.  Do not put those updates off!