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October is Cyber Security Month – Protect Your Personal Networks & Devices at Home

With all of the news about hacking, you would think people would be more worried about their own personal electronic devices being hacked. But, most of us don’t think what we have is important enough for someone to hack. It is important to consider securing your own devices, because while you might not have national security issues on your computer, you do have important passwords and identity information that is stored. Businesses are already on the lookout for cyber attacks, and work to protect proprietary information. Shouldn’t you do the same for your home?

How to Protect Your Personal Network from Hacking

It’s true that most people who own personal devices–phones, tablets, computers–aren’t cyber security or IT experts. No one expects you to be. That’s why we have created this “Take Action” list to get you on the road to a secure network. Even if foreign countries wouldn’t be interested in your personal information, there are plenty of people that use identity theft to commit fraud. Here is a list of actions to take if you haven’t already taken them:

1. Invest in a Network Firewall

Firewalls were one of the first security features that most people ever heard of because several movies discussed them in the past. We don’t hear much about them these days since they aren’t flashy, but they are still a good idea for securing your network.

A firewall is similar to what its name sounds like. It puts up a virtual wall to keep cyber attackers out. Think of it as the wall around your castle with your network safe inside. If an attacking knight wants to breach your firewall, your knights will keep it out. You may get a message from your computer asking if you want to allow this visitor in. If you do, you can make an exception to the rules. However, if you don’t know who the traffic is coming from, take care before you make the exception. It is a well-known fact, that sometimes hackers use known sources to infect our computers.

2. Keep Security Software Up-to-Date

You know those pesky update notices you get from your security software? You also get more annoying update messages from your computer from just about every program you use on a periodic basis, including Windows. It’s irritating and easy to just shrug those updates off, but they are crucial in protecting your devices.

Updates are issued for programs when problems are found. Some of those problems are security issues. Unfortunately, hackers are creative and clever. They come up with new ways to hack your system constantly. To fend them off, your programs must be updated to combat the latest threat. So when you get those messages, update your software as soon as you can.

3. Change Your Passwords

It is a big pain to change your passwords periodically. Probably just as pesky as those darn update notices. However, one of the best ways to protect your software and hardware is by changing your passwords on a regular basis. This is doubly true when discussing passwords for sensitive accounts such as bank, brokerage, social security or any other personal information account. You can come up with random passwords on by using a password generator like this one.

You can store your passwords using a storage program such as Last Pass. At a basic level, programs like this are free to use. You can set a message on your calendar to change passwords every 3 to 6 months, then do them all at the same time. Just put your updated passwords in your storage software. Then you only have to remember one password. If you do have a breach or suspected breach, change your password immediately.

4. Think Before You Click

You have probably received some suspicious-looking email at some point. Sometimes the email is from someone you know. These emails might be from a Nigerian prince, ask for money to get someone out of a jam or say you won a prize. These are all scams. All they want is for you to respond or click.

The rule of thumb is that if something sounds too good to be true, it always is. Never click on something that you aren’t sure about. You can find it yourself online via search or by going directly to the site on a different screen to confirm that it is a bunch of hooey. Or you can call your friend at home to see if they are in trouble. Think before you click. If it is unfamiliar, then don’t do it.

5. Update Software

We mentioned this in the updating security program section. But it can’t be said enough. Keeping all your programs updated will help secure your devices and network. Programs are updated by their manufacturers and designers to get rid of bugs and keep out hackers. If you haven’t received an update message recently, go to the software’s main website and see if there is an update. Most sites can tell if you have updated to the newest version or need an update. This includes your current browser.

6. Internet of Things (IOT) Threats

The internet has been a confusing concept since its inception (if you are old enough to remember that). Unless you are a computer expert, you probably don’t understand how the internet actually works.

However, in the last few years the internet has vastly expanded. Now you can get WiFi virtually anywhere, save your photos and files in the cloud and connect to people around the world from an array of devices including phones, tablets and watches. The bigger the internet gets, the more we need additional security to keep hackers out. Every device, every program and every storage system we use, real or virtual, needs to be kept secure. Protecting your own personal data and potentially protecting against hackers seeking to infiltrate national security is serious business.

As the internet broadens, you will see more installation of security. These include the upgrade from HTTP to HTTPS, and the addition of SSL certificates to websites. For those who want to read more about these issues, here is an excellent article from SecureList (Sept. 18, 2018).

7. Mobile Phones and Tablets

Mobile phones, tablets and some cameras and watches are using mobile device technology to run mini-computers outside of your home. A majority of people are increasingly using mobile technology to interact with the internet and programs. Mobile devices connect with the internet using a combination of WiFi and phone connections depending on your location. Some people use a mobile hotspot to connect.

Most of the issues already mentioned in this article also affect mobile devices. The additional issues relate to the mobility of the devices. While your phone shares the same technology as thousands or millions of other customers, you connect to the internet via programs and WiFi in multiple locations. This situation allows hackers to enter your mobile device though the originating location, the programs, the device hardware or the internet connection if it isn’t protected. You can see why phones and tablets have so many updates to their programming.

Mobile technology will only grow in the future. Therefore, it is a must that you protect your personal information as much as you can by keeping your device updated and adding security if recommended.

To learn more about securing your personal devices and information, contact us now.

Further Reading

8 Steps to a Strong Password, Infographic

More Fraudulent Apps Containing Aggressive Adware Found on Google Play, Symantec Corp., Aug. 16, 2018

US, UK warn of Russian hackers targeting millions of routers, CNET, April 16, 2018

Senate passes key cyber bill cementing cybersecurity agency at DHS, The Hill, Oct. 3, 2018

New trends in the world of IoT threats, Kapersky Lab, Sept. 18, 2018