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As professionals in the field of information security, we all know that cyber security has become an essential part of our lives. Every day, we use our phones, laptops, tablets, and other devices to connect with others and interact with the world around us.

At the same time, we understand that our ability to interact with information and communication technologies (ICT) is largely dependent on how we interact with our devices. Unfortunately, not all users realize this.

Non-techie users do not possess adequate awareness about IT security and cyber threats—these particular users are likely to use their devices under the assumption that built-in security measures will protect them. This may lead to unsafe behavior that undermines user experience for all of us.

If you have non-techie friends who may have unsafe online habits, here are a few tips you can give them:

1. Strangers are dangerous no matter what the medium

From a very early age, we are taught to beware of strangers and our experience informs us that this is no less true in cyberspace. Just as we are cautious to accept and open a gift from a stranger, so too should we refrain from opening any emails and/or attachments from persons whom we don’t know.

2. Don’t let your guard down

Imagine that people are always standing behind your computers, watching over your shoulders and just waiting to get a chance to steal your personal information. It’s just as important to remember to simply lock your monitor after stepping away from your desk, even if you won’t be gone for long. An insider may very well be just as dangerous as an unknown attacker.

3. Sexy and scary teasers are most likely scams

We’ve all been there. We see that article on Facebook that plays to our curiosities, teasing us with a “shocking” video viewable only after we agree to fill out a survey or share a link. Remember to investigate the links carefully before clicking on them, such as hovering over any URLs and seeing what domain they would redirect us to. After all, we could be taken to a malicious website.

4. To update or not to update

I’m sure we all have that one friend who’s using Windows XP and refuses to upgrade. Despite their stubbornness, sometimes all it takes is an earnest chat with a concerned friend about what’s at stake. Emphasize the importance and benefits of updating their OS and AV software.

In the field, there has been a lot of talk about “the human factor.” The fallibility of the user cannot be underestimated, but so can’t the power of an educated user who is aware of security threats. As information security professionals who are knowledgeable about computer security, we have the ability to discuss security risks with our non-techie friends and help them make safer decisions online.

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Tripwire has compiled an e-book, titled The Executive’s Guide to the Top 20 Critical Security Controls: Key Takeaways and Improvement Opportunities, which is available for download [registration form required].

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