October is here once again, and you know what means: National Cyber Security Awareness Month
(NCSAM) is back with more advice on how Americans can bolster their digital security. Now in its 14th
year, NCSAM 2017 kicks off its first week with STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™
. This campaign is relatively straightforward: STOP to make sure security measures are in place, THINK about the consequences of certain actions and behaviors, and CONNECT to the web.
STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™ aims to help users defend against common digital threats. With that mission in mind, here are some simple steps that users can take in the spirit of NCSAM's Week 1 campaign to stay safe online.
When in Doubt, Throw It Out
Bad actors try to send out phishing
emails in a bid to steal users' passwords and infect their computers with malware. Users can protect themselves against these threats by familiarizing themselves with some of the most common phishing attacks
. They should also look out for telltale signs of a phishing attack
, such as poor grammar/spelling, a sense of urgency, bad or forged links, and requests for personal information. If in doubt, users should simply delete the suspicious email and/or contact the sender to verify the email's legitimacy.
Share with Care
Attackers use many vectors other than email to target unsuspecting users. For instance, nefarious individuals are known to monitor social media posts for revealing information, such as a Tweet about an upcoming vacation or a Facebook photo with someone's credit card displayed in the background. To protect against these types of digital threats, users need to think carefully about what they share on social media before they share it
. They should also acquaint themselves with common scams found on Twitter
, and LinkedIn
Lock Down Your Login
Nefarious individuals want nothing more than to access users' bank accounts and other web-based profiles. Sometimes, they'll attempt to brute-force their way into a user's account; they might also simply steal a user's password from an online dump of login credentials following a data breach. Users can protect against these instances of unauthorized access by locking down their login with a strong password
and by enabling additional web account security features like two-step verification (2SV) if they're available.
Keep a Clean Machine
Malware can find its way onto users' machines via multiple delivery vectors including a suspicious link, a compromised website, and an infected physical device like a USB. Users can protect themselves against malware by keeping their machine clean with the installation of a reputable anti-virus solution. They should also implement software updates as soon as they become available and practice other security best practices, tips which include not plugging in unknown physical devices into a computer.
Back Up Regularly
A subset of malware known as crypto-ransomware encrypts users' files and demands a ransom payment in exchange for the decryption key. This ransom can range from a few cents to tens of thousands of dollars
. Obviously, it might not be feasible for some users to meet those higher ransom amounts. They should, therefore, focus on preventing a ransomware infection
in the first place. Just in case they do suffer a ransomware attack, they should back up their data on a regular basis.
How Do You Stay Safe Online?
Do you have additional tips for how you stay safe online? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments.