Take a quick look at current events and you will see how common digital security breaches are in this information age. Within the last year, several major companies were victims of a cyber breach. Examples include Instagram, Citrix, AMC Network and Whatsapp. Over the years other notable companies have been exploited by cybercriminals, including Target, Equifax, Home Depot and Facebook. If you are not careful, it could be you and your company next. If you use technology that is connected to the internet at work or at home, you should be concerned about your online information security. Cybersecurity is not the responsibility of just the IT department; cybersecurity is your responsibility too. As an employee in this computer age, you can be your company's greatest asset or its greatest security risk.
First, consider passwords. Set strong, randomized passwords for your email and other applications. Try to use a different password for each account you have at the office. Never write down your password. One way to simplify this process is by using a reliable password manager. A simple Google search will provide many applications that help set and store randomized passwords behind a password-protected vault.
Also, learn to recognize possible phishing emails and avoid them. Phishing is a cybercrime in which someone impersonating a legitimate institution or individual contact targets via email, telephone or text message with the intent of collecting sensitive data. This data can include personally identifiable information, banking and credit card details and passwords. Just clicking on a link from an email that appears harmless can compromise your personal information and your organization’s data. Avoid clicking on links. Instead, hover over the highlighted URL and make sure the address at the bottom of the screen is the same as the written link.
Make sure emails are coming from a known source. Some phishing scams can impersonate a co-worker or boss’s email address and change it slightly. One way to avoid this is to have everyone in your company use a digital signature. Always be suspicious of communications that contain urgent requests for personal information. New phishing scams are developed all the time. Stay on top of new phishing techniques by frequently checking cybersecurity news and participating in security awareness training at your organization.
Keep the software on your devices up-to-date. Many software programs will automatically connect and update to defend against known risks. Install anti-virus software and ad-blockers. Back up your data frequently. Always lock your screen when you walk away from your computer at work.
These are easy ways to make sure you are a responsible employee and a responsible individual. There are people out there that want your information for malicious purposes. Do your best to protect yourself against these cyber-criminals to keep you and your company safe.
Lydia is a current cybersecurity NIATEC SFS student at Idaho State University. She previously earned a degree in Law and Constitutional Studies from Utah State University, she then taught herself to code in her spare time and went on to get her Software Developer certificate from Bottega. Lydia hopes this month's awareness goals will help others be more protected within their small Idaho businesses.