Top Security Tips for National Cyber Security Awareness Month

BlueCross. Anthem. Ashley Madison. Kaspersky. 2015 has brought us another year of newsworthy data breaches that left us all cringing for about 2-days (or maybe a little longer for the Ashley Madison hack), and then let’s face it… we pretty much moved on. For those of us in the SMB world, it’s almost too easy these days to watch the “Big Guys” get attacked from behind our television and computer screens and think “sucks for them.” Sure, cyber security is a priority for your business, but so is employee retention, new business and that big client meeting tomorrow.

But the U.S Department of Homeland Security is once again making sure to remind the SMB world this month that it is not immune to cyber-crime and there are practical steps you can be taking right now to protect your business.

This October marks the 12th National Cyber Security Month, a joint awareness campaign by Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance. With a goal of educating small and midsized businesses on the dangers and repercussions of cyber safety, the NCSA has come up with themes, mottos, facts and are even conducting webinars that consumers and businesses can use or attend to educate themselves, their employees and their peers about the dangers and threats of having poor cyber security.  

According to a recent survey by the National Small Business Association, 44% of small businesses reported falling victim of a cyber-attack, with the cost averaging approximately $9,000 per attack1. A Hewlett-Packard report reveals that the United States is being hit hard by hacking. Cyberattacks have cost U.S. firms, on average, $15.4 million annually, which is double the $7.7 million global average2. Cyber-crime has gotten so out of control over the last few years that there are actually vigilante hackers installing malware designed to protect a victim from future cyber-crimes!3 Cyber criminals protecting us from cyber criminals kind of has a cool Batman vibe to it. But since the chances are that an unseen cyber hero won’t be coming to your rescue anytime soon, we wanted to pass on some tips from Homeland Security that could ultimately help protect your business.

Stop. Think. Connect.

A motto4 every corporation and its employees should follow when submitting sensitive information online.

  • Stop: Before using the internet, take the time to understand the risks, how to spot potential problems and make sure you have security measures in place to protect you from any potential risks.
  • Think: Look for warning signs and consider how your actions online cold impact your safety.
  • Connect: After completing the previous steps you can now enjoy the internet freely, with confidence knowing you took the proper steps to protect yourself.

Creating a Culture of Awareness.

You may be on top of all the latest security threats, hacks and risks going on throughout the internet today, but what about the rest of your employees and co-workers? All it takes is one slip up and your whole network could go down. Even the strongest and safest security in the world cannot protect against ignorance or naivety. Everyone within the business should be on the same page and it should be a goal for the company as a whole to create a culture of awareness. Some of the tips StaySafeOnline.org5 suggests include:

  • Keep a clean machine
  • Follow good password practices
  • When in doubt, throw it out
  • Back up Your Work
  • If something seems wrong, speak up

Staying Protected While Always Connected.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone6 and it seems like everyone that does, is using it for some form of social media, email, or business purpose, sharing updates, exchanging private information and other details that could be dangerous if that information ended up in the wrong hands. In 2014, close to 432 million email, bank, social and other accounts were hacked,7 that revealed personal information like names, debit and credit card numbers, emails, birthdays, phone numbers, passwords, security questions and physical addresses. So what are some steps you can to take to prevent yourself from becoming one of those 432 million?

Update your privacy setting on social media

Ensure that you are only allowing people you gave permission to the ability to access your profile. If you are private, strangers can’t easily view and harvest personal information (email, location, phone number, family names, pictures) that they can leverage against you.

Change Passwords and Implement Authentication

When changing a password, make sure it’s different from others you might use on other sites and accounts. When asked to provide security questions, ensure you’re selecting questions others would not easily have the answers to, you never know who may be trying to hack you.  Multi-factor authentication or two-factor authentication does not a let a user login until they have passed more than one layer of authentication. These types of security measures ensure that a hacker would need more than your password to access your system.

Do not share personal information.

Carnegie Mellon University8 recently conducted a study that found that your social security number can actually be predicted based on information obtained through social media and online profiles. These details include your birthday, age and where you were born. It’s already easy enough for hackers to gain access to your personal information, don’t make it easier.

Presidents Obama along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security realized the importance of educating SMBs and consumers on the dangers of cyber-attacks, and that’s why they named October National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Throughout the month the National Association of Counties will be holding webinars to help teach businesses about the dangers of cyber-attacks, how to prevent them and what’s in store for the future.

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With more than two decades of experience, the iCorps IT consulting team is dedicated to delivering excellence to our customers by staying ahead of market trends and understanding new technologies that could impact their business. iCorps delivers superior IT outsourcing, IT support and technology solutions implemented by the best consultants in the BostonPhiladelphia and New York (NY) areas.