We share responsibility for effective cybersecurity

By Neil Black, IT Network Analyst, and Xiaoying Hu, Chief Information Security Officer 

A recent study at USC Annenberg found that Americans spend an average of 24 hours a week online. In a university town such as College Station, the hours spent online are likely even greater.

So are the risks.

As more people use the internet for online shopping, banking, financial management, and socializing, they also expose themselves to increased cyber risks. Online threats and cyber-attacks threaten our national and economic security.

The City of College Station is joining with the Department of Homeland Security to raise cybersecurity awareness during National Cybersecurity Awareness Month throughout October.

Cybersecurity is not just the responsibility of governments, companies, groups, or individuals. Everyone shares the responsibility for cybersecurity – from the average smartphone user to a corporate CEO.

Here are some basic steps you can take today to reduce the risk of a cyberattack.

Manage your password

Pick strong passwords for all your devices and don’t share them with anyone. In addition, never send a plain text password by email, instant message, or any other means that isn’t reliably secure.

You should also avoid entering your password on any device if you’re not sure the device is secure. Finally, don’t store your password on the device it’s designed to protect.

Be wary of phishing

Phishing is a type of online scam where criminals use email messages, websites, and phone calls that appear to be from a legitimate organization to ask you for sensitive information such as credit card numbers, passwords, account data, or other information.

About 156 million phishing emails are sent globally every day. The damage caused ranges from losing email access to substantial financial loss.

If you suspect a phishing email is in your inbox, don’t open it, don’t download attachments, don’t reply, and never click links.

Protect your online life

If a website, email, or text seems suspicious, be wary and don’t click any links they may contain. The links or attachments could contain malware. The best thing to do it to delete these messages immediately.

Your personal information is your property. Be leery of unsolicited contact from individuals seeking personal information, and don’t provide personal information or passwords by email or phone. Pay close attention to website URLs that use variations in spelling or unusual domains. To verify the authenticity of a request, contact the company directly.

If possible, you should use an internet firewall at home to keep cyber intruders out of your personal information. It’s also a good idea to update the security software, operating system, and web browser on all of your internet-connected devices. Keeping your security software up to date will prevent attackers from taking advantage of known vulnerabilities.

Secure your mobile device

Hackers want to use your mobile device as a gateway to you or your organization’s data. The content and contacts stored on your mobile device are the types of data cyberattackers need to hack into your accounts or company network.

Here are four easy ways to secure your mobile device:

  1. Update the security software regularly.
  2. Update your apps routinely, delete unneeded apps, and download apps only from trusted sources after checking reviews. You should configure app permissions immediately after downloading.
  3. Secure your devices with passcodes or other strong authentication such as fingerprint recognition.
  4. Turn off discovery mode and activate “find device” and “remote wipe.”

Free Wi-Fi really isn’t free, so make sure you’re connecting to a legitimate Wi-Fi hotspot. Your device will typically pick up the strongest signal, which could be a rogue Wi-Fi that seems reliable but is actually an attacker waiting to monitor, intercept, or even alter communications from your device.

Learn more about National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and how to protect yourself from threats online at dhs.gov/ncsam.

 


About the Bloggers

Network Systems Analyst Neil Black has been with the City of College Station’s IT Department since 1997. A native of Houston, Neil studied business management at Texas A&M.

Information Security Officer Xiaoying Hu has been with the IT Department since September. She previously worked for the City of Houston.


 

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