Roots & Wings Online

Cybersecurity 101

TAC member, April Sather shares four steps you should take today to secure your data to promote cybersecurity.

By April Sather, Member LARCS Technology Advisory Committee and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

From health to personal finances to relationships – failing to consciously manage our lives can have undesirable consequences. That includes our technology. Laying a strong cybersecurity foundation for yourself and your family can be done with minimal cost and effort.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month was introduced seventeen years ago. Since this campaign launched, the frequency and severity of cyberattacks have grown exponentially. While mega breaches and some cyber incidents lie outside our sphere of control, far more lies within. Individuals have access to more powerful, and affordable, technical protections than ever before – the trick is, to use them.

Whether your concern is protecting your digital identity and reputation, preventing financial loss, protecting private information, physical safety, or something else, take a few hours this month to check in on your cybersecurity hygiene.

Commit today to one, or ideally all of the following:

1) Use a Password Manager
Password managers allow you to securely save all of your credentials (user names and passwords) in a single application. This reduces the temptation to re-use the same password across multiple accounts – a very risky practice.

LastPass, 1Password and Dash Lane are popular and affordable solutions – all cost less than half the cost of a Netflix subscription. Free versions are also available. Remember to make your master password, or ideally a pass phrase, exceptionally strong and complex. Then, memorize and protect it.

2) Enable Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires a user to present two or more pieces of evidence to prove that they are who they say they are. 

The first factor is usually a password (something you know) and the second can be your cell phone or a hardware token (something you have). When a service you use has an option to add a second factor be sure to enable it. Examples of commonly used applications with MFA options are Gmail, Apple ID, and most online banking apps.

One downside of MFA is that if you lose your second factor, such as your cell phone, you lose the ability to access your account. It is therefore highly advisable to generate, and print, backup codes or add a second phone number.

3) Automatically Scan for Malware
Keep your devices – desktop and mobile, patched and set to automatically scan for malware. This may seem like an obvious one, but it never hurts to check for updates and confirm when your malware last scan took place. For those running Windows 10, you should have free protection against viruses, malware and spyware through Microsoft Defender Antivirus.

4) Run Online and Offline Backups
Ensure you have an online and offline backup solution in place for the data you care most about. With the prices of online and offline storage at all-time lows, there are a wide range of options available to choose from. If your data is infected by malware, or your device fails or is damaged, there is nothing that can provide more peace-of-mind than knowing you have a clean backup available.

While no single practice guarantees protection against cyber criminals and hackers, when used in combination, you create multiple layers of defense. What matters most are the simple steps we take, and daily choices we make. Do your part to protect your identity, personal information and data.