CybersecurityMy heart is aflutter to discover there’s a whole month dedicated to cybersecurity awareness! I had no idea, but I’m glad to hear that October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

Even a whole month dedicated to the topic of cybersecurity is not enough, but hopefully anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to the issue will take notice. Because one thing is for sure: the bad actors out there aren’t taking any time off from trying to hack, cheat and steal your information or hard-earned money.

Matrix Integration, a strategic IT infrastructure company based in Indiana, offers a list of top five cybersecurity tips in honor of the month:

  1. Create strong, complex passwords. Cybercriminals want access to corporate information, account numbers and private data. People shouldn’t reuse the same passwords for different sites and devices. One easy option is to create a complex phrase. For example, instead of “Ilovedogs,” people should try “Ilovemydalmation.”
  2. Take a closer look at that email. One of the most common ways to hook a victim is through “phishing” – personalized emails that look like they are from a friend or colleague. Once a person clicks on a malicious link in that email, they could deploy malware or divulge sensitive information. Consumers should question everything and look closely at return addresses, scan for typos, and compare suspect emails to legitimate ones they have received in the past.
  3. Watch social activity. Cybercriminals are now targeting citizens through social media like Facebook and Twitter. Ads or personal messages encourage users to play games or click on links to photos, which could lead them to malware or other scams.
  4. Use public Wi-Fi with caution. Free Wi-Fi in public spaces is a major benefit to anyone who needs connectivity on the go. But some of these hotspots may be operated by cybercriminals who can easily steal the data users transmit while on their networks. People should not connect to wireless networks that aren’t recognized, especially those with “free” in the name or those defined as an “unsecured computer-to-computer network.”
  5. Take care with mobile apps. The majority of applications people download to their phones are perfectly safe. However, in the past year, cybercriminals have been developing more apps that contain malware and ransomware for individual phones. Symantec found that 99.9 percent of unsafe apps were hosted in third-party app stores, so to stay safe, consumers should keep their phones’ operating systems as updated as possible, and only download apps from primary app stores.
Charlee Beasor is the communications & PR manager for the Indiana Chamber. She is also a writer for the Chamber’s award-winning BizVoice magazine and has been with the organization for eight years.