Make this New Year’s Resolution

Welcome to Cyber Security Today. It’s Tuesday December 31st. I’m Howard Solomon, contributing reporter on cyber security for ITWorldCanada.com.

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The end of the year when many people make New Year Resolutions. If you do, think about this one: Resolve to take time to make your online life safer.

Start by making a list of all the Internet-connected devices in your home: Desktop and laptop computers, tablets, modems and Wi-Fi routers, smartphones, connected TVs, smart speakers, surveillance cameras, baby monitors. Next, look at what applications are on computers, tablets and smartphones. Are there ones aren’t you using? Get rid of them, they’re security risks. Of those that remain, make sure they’ve been updated them to the latest version. Pay close attention: Are the developers issuing security updates or is the software so old it’s no longer supported? Get rid of unsupported apps because they are a security risk.

Is the firmware on routers and modems patched? People tend to keep routers and modems for years without checking. Modems you get from your Internet provider should be automatically updated, but not Wi-Fi routers you bought. Check your instruction manual on how to update the router software. If the device is so old it’s no longer supported, buy a new one.

Then make a list of everything that has a password. This may take some thought because you might have forgotten that toys, surveillance cameras, wireless doorbells and more — in fact everything that connects to the Internet — has passwords. Make sure the passwords aren’t easily guessable – like the word ‘password’ or 123456. Can’t remember them all? Get password manager software. A manager may come with the anti-malware suite you have. Or, do an Internet search for the phrase ‘password manager’ and pick one. The only home password you’ll have to remember is one — for the manager. And make sure you either have a password or fingerprint lock on your smartphone.

Some of you are tired of me talking about using two-factor authentication on as many apps as you can. Two-factor or multi-factor authentication is where in addition to your password you get a number sent to you on a smartphone that also has to be entered when you login. Investigate whether the sensitive sites you use have it, and enable it. Try not to have the second code sent to you by SMS text, instead use a service like Google Authenticator or Authy.

If you have children, make sure the computers, tablets and smartphones they use have security features turned on, and have security patches installed regularly. Keep an eye on 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.

Here’s more: Turn off location services on your smartphone when you don’t need them. Do you like adding apps to your phone? Chose them wisely. Unless an app is from a big brand name, only download an app from the Google Play store or the Apple Store. 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?

It’s hard to boil this all down to three minutes, but to learn more see the web site of the Government of Canada’s Canadian Centre for Cyber Security.

That’s it for Cyber Security Today. Links to details about these stories can be found in the text version of each podcast at ITWorldCanada.com. That’s where you’ll also find my news stories aimed at businesses and cyber security professionals. Cyber Security Today can be heard on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Because of the holiday this podcast resumes Monday January 6th. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or add us to your Flash Briefing on your smart speaker. Thanks for listening. I’m Howard Solomon



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