October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month -- a time when the tech industry, government, businesses, and consumers focus on staying safe online.
I admit that there are lots of of days, weeks, and months on the calendar to recognize just about anything laudable, but October is as good a time as any to put some thought into how we can keep the Internet more secure. Whether it's government and large companies fending off major hack attacks from nation states or individuals protecting their devices against malicious software, we can all do something, starting with securing our own networks and devices.
Do you have a PIN to keep unauthorized people from using your mobile phone or tablet? How strong are your passwords? If you're using "password" or the name of your dog, you might want to take a look at these "Tips for Strong, Secure Passwords" that I posted on ConnectSafely.org, the nonprofit Internet safety organization where I serve as co-director.
Parents' guide to cybersecurity
And what about devices at home? In observance of Cyber Security Awareness Month, ConnectSafely just posted "A Parents' Guide to Cybersecurity" (PDF) to help families with kids be sure that everyone is doing what they can. As it says in the free booklet, "Security is one of those topics that are pretty easy to talk with kids about, because, just like adults, they don't want to be exploited, tricked or ripped off either."
Stop, Think, Connect
In an interview (scroll down to listen), National Cyber Security Alliance Executive Director Michael Kaiser said that his organization's ongoing theme, "Stop Think Connect," is a "simple way for people to stay safe and secure online." He suggested that people "stop and make sure you've taken the safety security precautions you should have, think about the consequences of your actions and behaviors to protect you against phishing or posting inappropriate content, and connect and enjoy the Internet."
Kaiser acknowledged that there's no such thing as perfect security -- "perfection is probably not the goal at the end of the day" -- but that's true in other aspects of life. "We haven't prevented all car accidents." While he said we shouldn't strive for perfection, "we should strive for some baseline understanding and action by everyone because it does make people safer even if it's not perfect."
Some of the security precautions Kaiser suggests include updating your operating system, browser, and other software; use long, strong, and unique passwords; use anti-malware software; use PINs or fingerprints for mobile devices; and "be thoughtful about what we post about each other, where we are, and where we're going."
For more, click below to listen to this 10-minute audio interview:
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