Web browsing, email, online chat and social media, for most of us we engage with these technologies every day for both pleasure and necessity. They engage us with society but expose us to dangers. Sometimes we see those dangers, and recognize fraudsters, and other times we fall prey to criminal operations. Many of us have experienced or know someone who has had credentials, or worse yet their identity stolen. We all know about workstation infections, ransomware attacks, and those annoying extortion calls. Don’t fret, you can fight back! The key to protecting yourself is an education in security basics.
Sometimes the advice on staying safe online can be overwhelming. Let’s keep it simple with a few important to-dos. So, try these simple rules:
- Use different passwords on different sites. Criminals are smart. Once they have stolen your username and password on one site, they will try using the same credentials on other sites. Maybe a hacker stole usernames and passwords from a fitness app; if you used the same credentials for your bank account, ouch!
- Store and share your valuable data safely. For example, Western’s Office 365 environment (Email, OneDrive, Teams, SharePoint, etc.) is encrypted, highly available, securely backed up, and monitored for malicious activity. You can even send encrypted emails to external addresses!
- Be suspicious of links to websites from unknown vendors or individuals. Do NOT click on these links. These links may come from emails, ads embedded in websites and social media, and even posts from your friends’ social media. You might find yourself with a workstation infection or a ransomware attack.
- Never respond to a request involving money. Even if the request appears to be from someone you know, don’t immediately act. Pick up the phone, and verify it is real.
- Never click on a link to change your password. If you receive a message to change your password, open a web browser yourself and go directly to the site to change your password. Do not use a link provided in an email.
Now, to really fight back against cyber criminals, an hour of education will go a long way. Western’s Information Security Office has developed an Information Security Awareness development opportunity for all Western community members. Beth Albertson, the director of Information Security, sums up the goals of the course as “improving the information security computing habits of Western community members and helping them recognize common dangers.” Best yet, employees who complete the course by the end of October will be entered into a drawing for an Amazon gift card of $25.