In a world where we are almost always7562831366_66f986c3ea_o connected to the internet, it’s important to maintain a certain level of security. By accessing the digital world, individuals face a certain level of risk for cybercrime, cyberbullying, and a variety of scams. The internet is not a place of isolation; so it is important to have a strong knowledge base and skill set to safely navigate this beneficial, yet potentially dangerous space. Read on for more information about keeping yourself and your family secure online.

STOP. THINK. CONNECT.

This year’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month theme revolves around three concepts: Stop. Think. Connect.

According to StaySafeOnline.org, when you log onto a campus network, or any network, what you do online may impact not only your computer, but other students’ computers and the network as well. While Elon University has certain protocols in place to identify viruses and malware, it is still up to the individual user to make smart internet choices. You will be more apt to make smart internet choices if you stop and think before clicking the button to submit information.

Protecting your personal information

Today, it is easy to conduct most of your life’s business on the internet. You can monitor your bank accounts, shop for almost anything, manage your healthcare, interact with friends through social media, and download apps and software for anything from news sources to complex design programs. Since there is so much at our fingertips, users can become lazy and make poor internet choices, like using the same password for every single account, or using personal information (e.g., first name and birthday) as a password. Here are some tips to keep your personal information protected:

  • Make passwords long and strong – When creating an online account, many websites will now provide a display to inform you of your password strength. You may see that your chosen password is considered low, medium, or highly secure. When you use a password with few characters, the time it takes for a hacker to determine your password decreases incredibly. By using at least 8 characters with a selection of letters, numbers, and special characters, you increase your security tenfold. If you need assistance with a secure password, try using the Secure Password Generator.
  • Keep your password safe – The best way to keep your passwords safe is to memorize them. However, in a world where you could have thirty different passwords for as many accounts, memorization can be difficult. If you must keep a list, write it down someplace safe, away from your computer and internet access, that only you can reach. You should never keep a list of accounts and passwords in a text or excel file that can be easily accessed if your device’s security is compromised.
  • Change your password – You should not use one password for the rest of your life. Best practices suggest that you should change the password to any given account at least once a year.
  • Monitor your security settings – Many websites choose defaults for their user’s security settings. After signing up for a website, you should access your account security settings to make sure that you are comfortable with the level of information you may be sharing.

Make smart choices

  • Think critically – Before accessing a website or providing information, ask yourself if this is something you are comfortable with making available. Be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately, making offers that sound too good to be true, or ask for personal information.
  • Back up your data – You should always protect valuable data you want saved. This may include work, music, photos, or other important documents like copies of tax returns. Save data in multiple places such as a USB flash drive, an external hard drive, or even by emailing copies of the files to yourself.
  • Share what you know with others – If you hear family members or friends making poor choices, correct them. It may be awkward to have a talk with Aunt Ida about not corresponding with a deposed African prince, but she’ll be grateful in the long run.
  • Scan your devices – Use antivirus or antimalware software to scan your devices (computer, flash drive, external hard drive) for malicious infections. Your computer may show no signs of weakness, but you might have a malicious program on your computer covertly transmitting information to others online without your knowledge.

If you have questions about keeping yourself safe online, you may always direct questions to the Technology Service Desk at 278-5200.

Image by Flickr user Merrill College of Journalism

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Ryan Gay

Ryan Gay

Ryan is a Technical Writer and Help Desk Associate for Campus Technology Support. He has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in English from UNC-Greensboro.

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