With National Cyber Security Awareness Month coming to a close, the City of College Station and the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) remind you of some basic ways to help keep your online experience safe. These six tips apply to any electronic device, including smart phones and tablets:
- Keep your operating system, browser, anti-virus and other critical software updated. Companies are interested in keeping you safe and work to correct software vulnerabilities by frequently issuing patches and updates. Keeping software and applications up-to-date ensures you have the latest protection.
- Use a firewall on your home PC. If you have a Microsoft Windows operating system, the Microsoft firewall is free, easy to turn on and provides good protection, especially in Windows 7 and Windows 8.
- Pay close attention to website URLs. The Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is the unique address of a web page. Malicious websites sometimes use a variation in common spelling of a different domain — such as .com instead of .net — to deceive unsuspecting users.
- Ensure websites used for financial transactions are secure. Make sure the URL “http” has changed to “https,” which helps ensure that the connection between the web server and your computer or device is encrypted. A lock icon symbol should also appear in the address bar.
- Take time to understand privacy and security settings, especially on social media sites. This can be frustrating since some sites keep changing their agreements and settings.
- Be suspicious of unknown links or requests sent through email or text message. Don’t click on unknown links sent to your computer or mobile device, regardless of who the sender appears to be. It’s relatively easy to spoof addresses to make it appear that a message came from a different address. If you haven’t been playing the Euro Millions lottery, it’s highly unlikely you’ll receive notice that you’re a big winner. Similarly, if you don’t know anyone in Kenya, you probably won’t be asked to assist in transferring funds.
To learn more about cyber security and how to remain safe online, TEEX offers free online training courses. These self-paced DHS/FEMA-certified and funded courses are offered through three discipline-specific tracks targeting general, nontechnical computer users, technical IT professionals, and business managers and professionals.
Computer image courtesy of Dan Hankins.