Make staying secure online one of your New Year Resolutions by following these steps. Welcome to Cyber Security Today. It’s Friday December 28th.
As 2018 comes to a close many people make New Year Resolutions. So today I’m going to ask you to include this on your list: Resolve to take time to make your online life safer.
Start by taking a piece of paper and make a list of all the Internet-connected devices in your home: Desktop and laptop computers — including those of your kids — modems and Wi-Fi routers, smart phones, connected TVs, smart speakers, surveillance cameras, baby monitors. Next, for devices like computers and smart phones, look at what applications are on them. Are there ones aren’t you using? Get rid of them, they’re a security risk. Of those that remain, are you updating them? If not, why not? Are the developers issuing security updates or is the software so old it’s no longer supported? Get rid of them, they are a security risk.
For other devices, like routers, is their software patched? Replace old devices that are no longer supported.
Then make a list of everything that has a password. Make sure the passwords aren’t easily guessable – like the word ‘password’ or 123456. Guys, ‘corvette’ and ‘mercedes’ aren’t safe passwords. Women, the phrase ‘iloveyou’ isn’t safe. If a hacker’s target is a person, they’ll do some research. Which is why passwords directly related to your work – for example, that include the name of your company or your title – aren’t safe.
What’s a safe password? Experts these days talk about creating a passphrase that’s easy to remember. For example, three or four words that never go together but whose initials you’ll remember. For example, POP can be short for PopcornOreganoPaperweight.
I’ve talked a lot about using two-factor authentication. That’s where in addition to your password you get a number sent to you on a smart phone that also has to be entered when you login. Gmail has it, Facebook has it, your bank may have it. Investigate whether the sensitive sites you use have it, and enable it. Don’t have the second code sent to you by SMS text, use Google Authenticator or Authy.
How do you keep track of all those passwords? With a password manager. PC Magazine has reviews on them. You might have one that comes with the antivirus or anti-malware suite already on your computer. There are versions for smart phones.
If you have children, make sure the computers, tablets and smarphones they use have security features turned on, and have security patches installed regularly. Watch where kids go online. And teach them to be safe – remind them the Internet is a public space and everything they write on social media sites can be seen by many people. And no cyber bullying,
Do you have a mobile device? Turn off location services when you don’t need them. Do you like adding apps to your phone? Chose them wisely. First, unless an app is from a big brand name, only download an app from the Google Play store or the Apple Store. Second, while Google and Apple try to make sure there are no malicious apps in their stores, sometimes they miss. So look at how long has the app been available. How many people have reviewed it? What permissions does the app ask for. If it’s a currency converter, why does it need to access your location and photos?
Finally, make sure you and your family know about being safe online. That means being careful about clicking on attachments, not believing everything you read in online newsletters, investing blogs, or bulletin boards. Remember, if your friends or relatives have been hacked an email or text message sender can be legit, but still be poison.
For more on personal security, see the government of Canada’s Get Cybersafe website.
That’s it for Cyber Security Today. Hoping you have a safe as well as a happy new year. I’m back writing news stories on ITWorld Canada.com on January 2nd, but my next podcast will be Friday January 4th. Subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or add us to your Flash Briefing on your smart speaker. Thanks for listening.