October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month

February 04, 2012

It seems there’s an online data breach or scam in the headlines almost daily. Meanwhile, cyber threats continue to grow in sophistication.
National Cyber Security Awareness Month aims to bring light to cyber threats and help people safeguard themselves online.

The Department of Homeland Security offers tips to help people stay safe online. They’re not much different from the words of wisdom your parents imparted:

  • Don’t trust candy from strangers: You’re not going to get a free computer just for filling out a survey; the IRS didn’t email to tell you that you’re entitled to a refund; you’re not going to turn $47 into $300,000 just by forwarding a link; and a foreign dignitary isn’t looking to split his fortune with you if you help him get his millions out of his country.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Enough said.
  • Don’t advertise that you’re away from home. Announcing to your 700 Facebook friends that you’re on vacation for a week is just an open invitation for thieves to strike. And be careful with how you word your email autoresponders.
  • Lock up your valuables. If a hacker can access your personal information, he or she can then compromise or steal the information. Keep your firewalls and anti-virus up-to-date, use strong passwords, install all software updates and be careful when surfing the Internet and using email.
  • Have a backup plan. Make regular backups of your information in case something goes wrong. Store these backups in a secure location. If your computer has been infected, remove the infection before resuming your work. But keep in mind that if you didn’t realize that your computer was infected, your backups may also be compromised.
DHS also recommends minimizing access to your information:
  • Lock your computer when you step away, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Those few minutes can be all it takes for someone to destroy, corrupt or steal your information.
  • Disconnect your computer from the Internet when you’re not using it. While it’s convenient to stay online constantly, it could provide access to hackers.
  • Evaluate your security settings. Certain features that increase convenience or functionality may leave you more vulnerable.
  • And of course, protect your equipment from power surges and back up all your data in case the worst happens.


For additional information and advice you can trust, start with bbb.org