Your Online Safety is Important – Stop, Think, Connect (COMM011 Post #5)

Online_SafetyI know that most of my blogs have some kind of cyber, security or even legal aspect to them.  But as the saying goes…write about what you know.  October was cyber security month.  So I’m taking the liberty of stretching this into November.  Let me share with you some very good reasons for ensuring that you secure your social media accounts, and more importantly your WiFi internet access.

I’m not going to focus so much on discussing the dos and don’ts of what you post, such as personal information or family photos, but rather tips on how to help you be safe and secure online.  So lets start with a focus on securing your home network.  This will help protect you’re entire family.  So many of devices – laptops, gaming consoles, smartphones, computers, even TVs – now access your wireless network.

A fundamental first step is to ensure that all your Internet-enabled devices have up-to-date antivirus programs and that the auto update feature is turned on.  Be sure to regularly patch and update your operating system and your web browsers as well.secure_network

Your home wireless network includes a router.  If the security settings and a strong password are not set on your router, your home network is vulnerable.  This could potentially expose your personal information or even allow others to use your Internet service for free, potentially using your network to commit cybercrimes.  And if you think I’m fear mongering, think again.   Check out this headline from a very recent article in The Coastguard, a Shelburne, Nova Scotia newspaper!

RCMP charge Shelburne County man with child pornography offences

Greg Bennett
Published on September 10, 2014
A Shelburne County man, accused of using unsecured WiFi networks to obtain child pornography, has been arrested and charged by RCMP.
Check out the full story here.

I also recall a story of a similar incident that occurred in Orleans a few years ago.  The police raided a house in Orleans for a similar crime only to find out that the criminal had been ‘wardriving’ – using that resident’s open WiFi access from his car – to commit a crime.  Not too hard to imagine how afraid the Orleans’ family was when the police raided their home!  I imaging their WiFi is secured now.

 The National Cyber Security Alliance provides some very helpful information.

Here are ways to secure your wireless router:

  • Change the name of your router: The default ID – called a service set identifier” (SSID) or “extended service set identifier” (ESSID ) – is assigned by the manufacturer. Change your router to a name that is unique to you and won’t be easily guessed by others.
  • Change the pre-set password on your router: When creating a new password, make sure it is long and strong, using a mix of numbers, letters and symbols.
  • Review security options: When choosing your router’s level of security, opt for WPA2, if available, or WPA. They are more secure than the WEP option.
  • Create a guest password: Some routers allow for guests to use the network via a separate password.  If you have many visitors to your home, it’s a good idea to set up a guest network.
  • Use a firewall: Firewalls help keep hackers from using your computer to send out your personal information without your permission. While anti-virus software scans incoming email and files, a firewall is like a guard, watching for attempts to access your system and blocking communications with sources you don’t permit. Your operating system and/or security software likely comes with a pre-installed firewall, but make sure you turn on these features.

Protect Yourself with these STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Tips:

  • Keep a clean machine: Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats.
  • Automate software updates: Many software programs will automatically connect and update to defend against known risks. Turn on automatic updates if that’s an available option.
  • Protect all devices that connect to the Internet: Along with computers, smart phones, gaming systems, and other web-enabled devices also need protection from viruses and malware.
  • Plug & scan: “USBs” and other external devices can be infected by viruses and malware. Use your security software to scan them.
  • Protect your $$: When banking and shopping, check to be sure the sites is security enabled. Look for web addresses with “https://” or “shttp://”, which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. “Http://” is not secure.
  • Back it up: Protect your valuable work, music, photos, and other digital information by making an electronic copy and storing it safely.
keep-calm-and-make-your-password-strongAnother very important aspect to being safe and secure online is to create strong passwords for all your social media accounts and enable the privacy settings for each.  This will help reduce the probability of your accounts being hacked, but if they are there are some things that you can do to regain control.  Are there are posts you’ve never made to your Twitter account? Is your family and friends getting emails from you that you never sent? Do you suspect that maybe you have been infected by a virus?  There are somethings that you can do according to the NCSA.

If you believe an account has been compromised, take the following steps:

  • Notify all of your contacts that they may receive spam messages  that appear to come from your account.  Tell your contacts they shouldn’t open messages or click on any links from your account and warn them about the potential for malware.
  • If you  believe your computer is infected, be sure your security software is up to date and scan your system for malware. You can also use other scanners and removal tools.
  • Change passwords to all accounts that have been compromised and other key accounts ASAP. Remember, passwords should be long and strong and use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, and numbers and symbols. You should have a unique password for each account.  If you cannot access your account because a password has been changed, contact the web service immediately and follow any steps they have for recovering an account.

Protect Yourself with these STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Tips:

  • Keep a clean machine: Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats.
  • Make passwords long and strong: Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password.
  • Unique account, unique password: Separate passwords for every account helps to thwart cybercriminals
  • When in doubt, throw it out: Links in email, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or if appropriate, mark as junk email.

There really is very little excuse for not taking steps to protect yourself.  So much information is available to help you with the technical aspects of security, with tips on best practices to employ and general information on the dangers that lurk.  The NSCA is only one such site.  The Canadian government has a ton of information available at Get Cyber Safe.  Here are a list of the available resources.  So no more excuses!

Protect Your Identity

Learn everything you need to know to protect your identity online – and what you have to lose if it’s ever compromised.

Protect Your Money

The convenience of banking and shopping online could come at a price. Find out what you need to know to make sure your money is protected.

So what has been your experience?  Hacked? Infected? Friends asking you about emails you didn’t know you sent?  What are you waiting for?  Get safe.

4 thoughts on “Your Online Safety is Important – Stop, Think, Connect (COMM011 Post #5)

  1. Hey Lynne! Great post with some very valuable takeaways! 🙂

    Now, naturally, I’m second guessing my own security at home when it comes to my Wifi password and such. I never thought to get a guest password for folks who come over; I wonder if there’s added cost?

    Thanks for sharing these!

  2. Thanks for this super informative post. I’m afraid I’m guilty of infringing on some of these recommendations, and some I don’t even have a clue about it. I start feeling stressed as soon as I start thinking of these things. But I have been thinking about it more lately now that my old laptop (still running on Windows XP) seems to be slowing down considerably.
    The other day I inadvertently clicked on an unsubscribe link on a spam email, thinking it was the Hotmail link to unsubscribe/block, and too late, I realized it was a trick. I closed every thing down (as fast as my computer would do it) and rebooted. I don’t think anything came of it.
    You’ve provided so much info here – I have a lot of work to do 🙂

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