Stay protected while connected
Security experts offer tips for staying cyber-smart all year long
We’ve all got locks on our homes, on our cars, even on our gym lockers. It’s how we keep our valuables secure; our physical valuables, that is.
But what about our digital valuables, the files, photos and personal information we all hold dear? Even now, there seems to be less vigilance when it comes to protecting cyber data.
Raytheon is joining the National Cyber Security Alliance, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and other industry partners for October's National Cybersecurity Awareness Month – an effort to help all Americans stay safer and more secure online. This year's theme is "Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT." that encourages personal accountability in security and privacy best practices.
“Our goal is to make these security practices a lifetime campaign and not just something that we do during the month of October,” said Kelvin Coleman, NCSA executive director. “I hope this becomes as commonplace as putting on your seat belts.”
Coleman and Jon Check, Raytheon Cyber Protection Solutions senior director, offered tips to help us all lock down our technology and avoid becoming cyber casualties:
Convenience vs. privacy
Chances are, most people don’t read the terms of service when they buy a new smartphone, according to Check. Instead, they just start downloading apps. He recommends beginning by reviewing the privacy settings on devices and apps.
“People sacrifice privacy for ease of use, (but) you want to own your privacy,” Check said. “Many people don’t look at these settings and have no idea where that information is going, how it will be used and who is using it.”
Coleman said people need to keep better tabs on the apps that they have on their devices.
“Have you ever seen an app on your phone and wondered, ‘What does this app do?’” Coleman asked, hypothetically. “If you’re not using it, delete it. Also, update apps whenever a new release comes out...they include security updates to make apps safer.”
Shake up your password protocol by creating strong, unique passwords, Check recommended. He uses random phrases that combine letters, numerals and special characters, writing them down in a notebook he keeps at home.
“I know it’s old school, but if...someone broke into my house, I’d know almost immediately,” Check said.
He also said never use the same username/email address/password combination on more than one account.
“If you’re in the habit of using the same username and password for everything, then if a bad actor discovers it, you’re 100 percent compromised. They’re going to scour banking sites, online merchants, you name the industry, and then take your money and steal your frequent flier points,” he said.
Play hard to get with strangers, Coleman said.
“If I get an email, and I see it spelled differently or the domain name is a little off, then I don’t open it, and I never open attachments from strange addresses,” he said. “Also, use the same practice with websites. If you’re shopping online, stick with established online businesses. If a deal is too good to be true, then it probably is.”
Say "no" to public Wi-Fi
Coleman suggested steering clear of public Wi-Fi because hackers can spoof Wi-Fi networks or intercept data with snoopers and sniffers.
Use a Virtual Private Network, he offered, which encrypts your data. Some internet service providers even offer free VPN services; if they don't, it's still relatively inexpensive.
“Personally, I use my phone as a hot spot, because only I am able to get to it,” Coleman said. “And if you run a business, we always encourage owners to keep their customer data safe.”
Businesses, big and small, need to encrypt their data while it’s at rest, in transit and in use, according to Check.
“For some small businesses, it’s often the last thing they’re spending their money on. But it will cost them much more in the end if they have a breach and data is stolen or held for ransom,” he said.
One of the biggest challenges to keeping ahead of the hackers is the dizzying pace of technological evolution, Coleman said.
“The innovations are so incredible and exciting – artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, 5G and quantum computing, among others,” he said. “With them come vulnerabilities. We’ve got to become more secure and protect ourselves…and it has to be yearlong and not just in October.”