Be Cyber Vigilant All Year Long

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Usernam

The following was published in yesterday’s Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

If you are a regular reader on my articles, you know October was National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. I have written about this for several years now and include links to resources to help you remain secure online. Now that we are in November, the hope is that these issues do not fade from the forefront.

If you’d like to review the various resources available from National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, visit https://staysafeonline.org/ncsam and review the Resources link for a wealth of information, tips and more.

Especially with election season in full swing, everyone should have a heightened awareness of cyber threats. Hopefully, you are well aware you should be suspect of just about everything you see posted on social media, even from your “friends.” Unless your “friend” is someone you know extremely well, you should be suspect of anything they post, especially links to “news.” Take the time to verify what you read online, don’t just take it for granted. Sites that seem quite legitimate may be facades for radical groups or even foreign actors looking to influence our elections and social discourse.

It’s not at all difficult to validate sites and check news for credible sources and reporting. Organizations as diverse as NPR, AARP and many, many others offer several suggestions to help you validate the source of your news. I encourage you to invest a little extra effort to verify what you read as news and be sure you are making decisions based on credible, verifiable sources. It’s more important than ever.

Hopefully, you read and took heed of some of the key themes of this year’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. One of the most basic themes was Lock Down Your Login. This is so easy to do, yet the most often overlooked thing to do. Simple usernames and passwords are the most used method to hack into networks and steal data and identities. These credentials are just too easy to break through. You should not be using passwords that are easy for you to remember, as if it is, it’s likely a hacker will be able to guess it or use tools to brute force their way through it and compromise your account.

Passwords should be replaced with passphrases, a sentence or collection of words that are easy for you to recall, but not easily breached. I’ve written about this a lot over the years, both here in the paper and online in my blog at https://mjshoer.com. Use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, replacing letters in the phase with numbers and symbols where it makes sense. You should also be using multi-factor authentication everywhere it is available. Your bank, personal and corporate email and just about every online site you log into should support multi-factor authentication. Use it. Newer computers running Microsoft Windows 10 support facial recognition to login, enable it. Almost every portable computer has a finger print reader, use that. Just do it, as the famous Nike advertising campaign says.

Finally, though nothing is ever final when it comes to matters of cybersecurity, stay ever vigilant of phishing email campaigns. Don’t click links or open attachments you are not 100 percent certain of. If you get shipping documents, invoices or other attachments you are not accustomed to, don’t open them until you call the sender and verify they actually sent it. Same for links within email messages. Hover over the link and verify that the link is going to a valid domain associated with the company that sent the email. This is one of the easiest ways to spot a phish. Same for the senders email address.

Check carefully to be sure the senders name is not misspelled, even by just one letter. Check the name and check the email address attached to the name. These are simple steps that you should familiarize yourself with and regularly practice to stay safe online.

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