October is Cyber Security Awareness Month (CSAM). The goal of CSAM is to help Canadians stay cyber safe by equipping them with knowledge through this five-week strategy.
Last week, we looked at how to keep your phone and the information on it secure. While phones can do almost everything that a computer can, computers play an important role in our daily operations. This week, we explore how you can keep your computer and the information on it secure.
Why You Should Protect Your Computer
Many of our greatest accomplishments, whether personal or business-related, are thanks to computers. There’s no doubt about the benefits of using computers; they increase productivity, connect you to the rest of the world, store and organize information, and allow for endless possibilities.
Whether you’re using a computer to do online banking or check in with friends on social media, computers store and process sensitive information. It’s important to be aware of how your computer can be vulnerable to a cyberattack and how you can keep your information safe. The last thing you want to worry about is a hacker stealing your personal or corporate information.
How Can You Protect Your Computer?
Here is a list of three easy things you can do right now to keep your computer and the information on it secure:
- Create complex passphrases
Did you know that at least 65% of people reuse the same passwords across multiple sites? Although this makes remembering your credentials easier to do, this also makes your accounts vulnerable to cyberattacks.
By creating complex passphrases and unique passwords for each site you use, you instantly tighten up your security, making your accounts less attractive to hackers. Password managers such as Google Password Manager and LastPass can easily help you create complex passphrases and store them so that you never forget a password again.
Some best practices for creating complex passphrases include:
- Avoiding family, pet, company, and familiar names that can be easily guessed by others
- Using unique combinations of letters, numbers, symbols, and cases for each site you use
- Creating passwords with at least 4 words and 15 characters long
- Prevent against malware
Malware is one of the most common ways people experience a cyberattack. Did you know that 2 in 5 Canadians have had malware on their computer? Malware is software that is specifically designed to interfere with, damage, or gain unauthorized access to a computer system. If your device is infected, it can cause freezing and crashing, poor performance, unwanted pop-ups, and toolbars, and even send out unwanted emails.
Malware presents itself in many forms, including viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware and adware, and ransomware. These common forms of malware are sometimes difficult to recognize. The following best practices can help you protect your computer system against malware:
- Install and use anti-virus software
- Avoid suspicious links and email attachments
- Download only from trusted sources
- Use a VPN on unsecured networks like public Wi-Fi
- Avoid phishing scams
Like malware, phishing is a common method that hackers will use to steal valuable information from individuals and organizations. Phishing scams are often disguised as messages from people and organizations that you trust, making them easier to fall victim to.
The most important way to avoid a phishing scam is to learn how to recognize one. Here are seven red flags to look out for:
- Urgent or threatening language: Look out for threats of closing your account or taking legal action, and pressure to respond or act on something quickly.
- Requests for sensitive information: Be on alert for links directing you to login pages, requests to update your credentials, and demands for yours or your company’s financial information.
- Anything too good to be true: Avoid actions on messages that claim winnings from contests you’ve never entered, prizes you must pay for to receive, and inheritance from long-lost relatives.
- Unexpected emails: Disregard emails such as receipts for items you’ve never purchased and updates on deliveries for things you didn’t order.
- Information mismatches: Look out for an incorrect (but maybe similar) sender email addresses, links that don’t go to official websites, errors in spelling or grammar that a legitimate organization wouldn’t miss.
- Suspicious attachments: Avoid attachments that you didn’t ask for, have weird file names or uncommon file types.
- Unprofessional design: Be on alert for incorrect or blurry company logos, image-only emails, and company emails with little, poor, or no formatting.
If you encounter any of these red flags in an email or message, do not interact with it. Rather, delete the email or message. If you are unsure, ask the sender about the message through a different channel.
Stay Safe Browsing
The number one trick to a secure IT landscape is knowledge. Knowing what you’re up against and all the various methods of cybersecurity best practices are key to your success. We’ve put together a short eBook from our experts of 10 simple practices you can implement today to instantly boost your cybersecurity.