It’s hard to believe that National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) is already celebrating its 18th year! NCSAM was originally created in 2004 via a partnership between National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA). The ultimate goal of the online safety awareness and education initiative was to empower both individuals and organizations to own their respective roles within cyberspace and also provide everyone with the information they need to stay safer and more secure online.
With this year’s overarching theme of “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart,” aligned with additional weekly themes throughout the entirety of the month, we polled our own Security Practice experts at Merritt Group for their suggestions on how they stay “cyber smart.” Check out our team’s easy-to-implement advice that can greatly increase your personal security posture and let us know if you have any other suggestions:
Tom Rice, Executive Vice President & Partner
Before signing up for a new account with a bank or online retailer, always check to ensure they have up-to-date security policies and use measures such as strong encryption to protect your data and log-in information. If these companies aren’t taking their security seriously, your privacy could be at risk!
Michelle Schafer, Senior Vice President and Partner
Where to start? I could talk about this for days, but your best bet is to do security awareness training at least twice a year! Also, regularly check activity and the locations where you are logged in across applications. It’s good to have a service that monitors for suspicious activities for you that involve your SSN (don’t put it on any documents unless it’s an absolute must) and other PII that could get revealed on the dark web.
Mia Wilcox, Senior Director
While it can be tempting to connect to that free Wi-Fi in your local coffee shop or in the airport while traveling, best to think twice before logging on to a public network. While souvenirs are great, you definitely don’t want to take any malware home from your latest vacation. Instead, use a private hotspot or VPN software. After all, don’t we all have unlimited data by now?!
Katie Brookes, Account Manager
Protect your PII! We are all guilty of sharing our lives via our social media networks, but adding phone numbers, birthdates or any other PII information can dramatically increase your chances of getting hacked. This information is a gold mine to hackers as they can use this to identify or locate individuals.
Dan Warren, Account Manager
Whenever possible, I always opt in for two-factor authentication, a process which requires you to verify your identity after you’ve logged in using your username and password. While it may take a few extra seconds to log in, it also significantly decreases your chances of having someone else log in to your accounts as you.
Erin Wise, Senior Account Executive
Keep track of your digital footprint! As you monitor your accounts, knowing what information you have saved or interacted with is important to notice suspicious activity. While it may seem silly, even deleting accounts you no longer use will keep you aware and cybercriminals away.
Matt Blecker, Senior Account Executive
Although many of us can be guilty of it for our emails, social media accounts or even news subscriptions, re-using the same exact password across multiple websites, especially those with sensitive information, is a big “faux pas.” Instead, try using a password manager to keep track of everything and decrease the chances that attackers can make your life miserable trying to reset them all simultaneously!
Noah Slade, Senior Account Executive
If you see something, say something! We’ve all gotten phishing messages from the hacked social media accounts of our friends and loved ones, but it’s critical to let them know as soon as it happens so they can take the necessary steps to lock down their accounts and change their passwords. It’s easy to roll your eyes and delete the message, but remember to be a good digital citizen and let them know right away!
Ashley Long, Account Executive
If you’re ever prompted to click on a “phishy-looking” URL, stop in your tracks. Clicking on malicious URLs or “spoof” sites can result in downloading ransomware, malware, viruses and more onto your computer. Instead, without clicking on the link, copy and paste it into an online scanning tool to make sure it’s legitimate. Phishing also doesn’t just exist through email. Hackers are looking to steal valuable information any way they can, and they’re often very good at mimicking websites of major brands and companies.
Oliver Cowley, Account Executive
I highly recommend backing up your personal data whenever possible and following the 3-2-1 backup rule: Three copies of your data on two different types of media. One copy on a local hard drive, one on an external hard drive, and one copy in an offsite location (the cloud). Should you become the subject of an attack, the backup will allow you to restore your data while the attack gets resolved.
Ben Greenberger, Account Coordinator
Did you receive an email from a colleague that you weren’t expecting or seems odd? Well, there are a good handful of phishing scams going around. Double check the email address the message came from before you respond. Don’t make yourself an easy target for a follow-up message that could lead to an attack!
For more information about the history of NCSAM, how to become a NCSAM “Champion,” and even find additional activities or resources, please visit: https://staysafeonline.org/cybersecurity-awareness-month/. Additionally, read more of our security practice blogs on the industry’s latest happenings and trends at https://www.merrittgrp.com/mg-blog/.