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National Cyber Security Awareness Month

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM). This is a collaboration between government and industry to promote the importance of cybersecurity and to make sure that everyone has the resources they need to be safe and secure online. NCSAM has been held every October for the past 16 years and the key message for this year is “Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.” This message will focus on key areas including citizen privacy, consumer devices, and e-commerce security.

With technology advancing every day we need to be more accountable for our digital actions. It seems as if almost every week there is a new story concerning data breaches or ID thefts, with the effects being felt by millions of consumers. Every person has a part to play when it comes to cybersecurity. Your computer, tablet, and cellphone most likely contain information that hackers would love to have–like other people’s email addresses, names, and birthdates–with this information they can launch phishing attacks and potentially get more personal data from others. In a connected world, we each have a responsibility to protect our data and the data of those we interact with, and it all starts with understanding cyber security. In light of cybersecurity month, here are some things you can do to stay secure.

What can I do to be safe online?

Ignore unexpected warnings from sources you don’t trust. Known as scareware, fake security software warnings may be sent to you through email, or they may pop up in a new browser window while you’re surfing the web. They may claim to have found a problem with your computer to scare you into downloading a file they claim will fix the issue but instead have been designed to infect your computer.

Never give out personal information to strangers who call on the phone. In a tactic known as social hacking, people can impersonate someone from a legitimate company trying to get information about your username and password. Also, be aware of what you post on social media and other sites as hackers can use the personal data you provide online to target you.

If you receive an email, but are not expecting it, don’t click on the links, regardless of who appears to be sending them to you. Hackers can attach dangerous links to emails that appear to be from reputable companies or even people you may know. If the message seems suspicious, contact the person who sent it to you using a different means of communication, such as calling them at a known phone number, not the phone number that may be listed in the email.

How can I promote cybersecurity, so others are safe as well?     

Having open discussions about cybersecurity. Discussing cybersecurity can raise awareness of the threats one faces when online, the more informed someone is the less likely they will be susceptible to an attack.

Guard your sensitive data. Hackers can use information such as your name, birthdate, and phone number to target you. Be aware of where and with whom you share this information and encourage others to do the same.

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Consider sharing this article with people you care about or work with to help keep them, and yourself, safe from cyber threats.