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13 Ways to Avoid Security Scares

October means Halloween and National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. We share 13 tips for staying safe all year.

It’s officially October, and you know what that means! Candy, costumes, and National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Some pretty scary stuff.

With ransomware attacks happening every 14 seconds and more connected devices than ever, we all need to do our part to make sure our online lives are kept safe and secure—both at home, and in the workplace.

So put on your costume, grab a Twix, and let’s get learning. Here’s how you can stay secure not just this October, but all year long.

1. Install security software

Strong security controls are your first line of defense against online threats. Make sure to install premium security suite software (anti-virus, anti-malware, etc.) on all of your web-enabled devices, and ensure your family and employees all do, too.

2. Update, update, update

Update all your software regularly to ensure it is as secure as possible. From your computers, to your phones, updates usually contain security patches that can protect you from hackers.

3. Use strong passwords

It’s tempting to use the same simple password for all of your accounts, but it’s much safer to use a strong, unique password for each. A strong password includes uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. To avoid writing down and possibly losing your passwords, try using a password manager that will securely store them for you, like LastPass.

4. Use two-factor authentication

We recommend an authenticator app like Google Authenticator or Authy to add an extra layer of protection between you and hackers because they’re much harder to intercept, but simple SMS or email two-factor authentication can help protect you, too.

5. Don’t click or open anything unsolicited

Despite many highly publicized phishing scams and viruses, many people still make the mistake of clicking links or opening attachments in unsolicited emails. As a rule of thumb, delete emails from people or organizations you don’t recognize—without even reading them. Even if you know the sender, be wary of links or attachments that look suspicious. Check with the sender to see if they really sent the email.

6. Encrypt sensitive and personal information

Use strong encryption mechanisms to secure data wherever it lives or moves—within, or outside of your home or company. Conduct regular backups to ensure the integrity and availability of all data, and encrypt those backups, too!

7. Secure your WiFi

This is the easiest step you can take to protect your data. Secure your WiFi with a strong password, and only give it out to those who need it. If you regularly have guests/customers who need WiFi, be sure your network is configured so that no private data or systems are accessible from WiFi networks that you share with customers or guests.

8. Only buy tech from reputable sources

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Cheap or knockoff tech isn’t always as secure, so make sure to do your research. And make sure the website URLs you’re shopping on are legitimate. https:// is always a good idea.

9. Don’t forget about your smart home devices

If it’s connected to the internet, it needs to be secured. Everything from smart lights, to thermostats, to your smart cameras are at risk for being hacked—and if you don’t change the factory settings, the password is just a quick search away. Once someone gets into one of those, they can more easily hack into the rest of your network. Imagine how high that heating bill could get.

10. Know what your partners are collecting

In addition to your own privacy practices, you’re also responsible for how your partners use and collect data from your customers and employees. That means that if they get hacked, your business is still on the line. Make sure to confirm that each source has permission to collect and/or share data, and educate all your partners about the significance.

11. Monitor your data

Track the way you use and manage customer data, and make sure you’re on track with your security policy and disclosures. Who knows, you might figure out you don’t actually need to be collecting as much data. Less data, less problems. And secure non-digital data, too. Anything from receipts, to email lists, to handwritten passwords—make sure it’s hard to get into the wrong hands.

12. Avoid making purchases over public WiFi

These networks aren’t secure, which means anyone could potentially intercept your web traffic. And sometimes these networks are fake. They’re called honeypots and they lure people in by posing as fake legitimate networks to steal your data. Using a VPN is a good way to protect your traffic on untrusted networks like public WiFi.

13. Educate your employees, friends, family, pretty much everybody

More often than not, cyberattacks are the result of human error. The best way to protect yourself against this is to educate your employees on the risks and the best practices for cybersecurity. Encourage the use of strong passwords, and make sure everyone knows what they should be aware of.

Scared yet? Good. Now get moving!  Happy Hallow—I mean Cybersecurity Awareness Month, everyone.