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US Dept of Homeland Security – October alert

You may have heard about it on the news or on social media – October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. First observed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2003, the annual designation given for the month of October is to bring awareness to serious threats to personal data as they are at an all time high. Everyone, including individuals and businesses of all sizes, may consider giving attention to protecting themselves from hackers and privacy breaches. Scammers of all sorts bombard us through pop-ups, viruses, e-mails, phone calls and even the businesses we visit every day. Small business owners are especially vulnerable as hackers have been increasingly targeting them as they often have limited resources, tighter budgets and a smaller workforce.

This week I wanted to get you some actionable content (a video would have put you to sleep) that you can act on today to better protect you and your business:

  1. Create secure passwords and don’t share them.

  2. Avoid common words, phrases, and personal information when creating passwords.

  3. Keep your anti-virus, software and operating system up-to-date. These updates keep your computer as current as possible with the latest viruses and patches to protect your computer.

  4. Never give personal information over the phone or in e-mail. Scammers love to call and claim to be someone they are not. Verify their authenticity by contacting the company directly.

  5. Don’t click on links in e-mails. Links are an excellent way to get a virus. The same goes for pop-ups.

  6. Turn-on the pop-up blocker on your anti-virus. If you still receive a pop-up, do not click on it.

  7. Never visit unfamiliar websites and beware of look-a-like links. These links could have a similar spelling or will end in .net versus .com will be an infected link attacking your computer.

  8. Laptop owners should install software to ensure the laptop can be tracked if stolen or remotely accessed to erase files or transfer files securely.

  9. When using social networks, use the privacy settings to protect your personal information.

  10. As with e-mail, clicking unknown links within social networks places your devices at risk. This includes strange friend requests, messages, and even innocent looking videos.

So how do I set a good password?

There has been a lot of discussion about what makes for the most secure password. You might be surprised to hear that simple tends to be safer than complex. You’re more likely to forget a long, complicated password, and therefore more likely to write it down. Having to meet specific password requirements, or frequently change login information has the same problem.

The solution? Choose something easy to remember that is unique to you, but not something obvious like a pet’s name or a favorite sports team. And you should never use the same password for multiple applications or websites. If you are serious about security and would prefer to use complex passwords for websites (for example: $H&j!@L7vvx), a password manager such as LastPass will do the trick, storing all of those passwords for you and auto-filling them into websites as you visit them. We’ve been using it for years and are quite pleased with the product.

If you need any guidance with implementing better security measures at your company, feel free to reach out – we can help.

Stay safe out there.


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