f you’ve noticed a bit more pep in my step this month, it’s not because it is pumpkin spice season. It’s because October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. My day job is as a cybersecurity specialist, which means that my days and nights are filled with hacking and NCIS and all of the cool cyber games that you might expect.
Actually, it’s a lot of sending emails and reading Excel spreadsheets. But the part I do enjoy the most is when it turns to October and we get a chance to tell folks how to improve their own cybersecurity. Every year, ,mllions of dollars are stolen through cyber fraud and cyber crimes. 87% of all company breaches start with someone clicking on a link they shouldn’t in an email (it’s called phishing because the criminals are “fishing” for data.)
Cyber crime is similar to physical crime. If a criminal wants something bad enough, they’re going to take it. However, it also means that so long as you stay under the radar from the criminals, you’ve got a good chance of being left alone. There are actually two very simple things you can do today to improve your security by 99%.
The first is to make sure that you use a different password for your key websites. This means not re-using your generic password on your banking website as you do on your Facebook account. Why is this important? Dozens of companies every year report that their password databases are hacked. In the past few years, Door Dash, Target, Experian, and dozens of others had their customer databases swiped. This means that a criminal can steal your Target.com account and potentially try it on your Citibank.com account. That’s a bad day.
But how are you going to remember all of those passwords? Well, if you’re my sister, you write them all on a sheet of notebook paper. That’s probably not ideal. Might I recommend a password manager like LastPass.com or KeyPass.com. Both sites are free and can track passwords and even help you create more secure ones.
The second thing you can do to improve your posture is to turn on two-factor authentication on all your key websites. This is turning on a feature where, in addition to your password, the website also asks you for a second piece of information, like a 6-digit key they text your phone, or a randomized code you get off an app. You can go to staysafeonline.org for instructions on how to turn on two-factor on nearly every website you use. That site will walk you through turning it on for every site you use.
Using difficult passwords and making it so that even if your password is stolen, you still need a second piece of information will protect you from 99% of online phishing attempts and help you stay cybersecure!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to change a few passwords while sipping on my pumpkin spice latte.
(Get cybersecure with Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed. You can also cyberstalk him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)