Don’t Let Spooky Season Get Any More Chilling – Here’s How You Can Keep the Ghouls & Goblins from Stealing your Data

Cybersecurity Awareness Month aims to provide individuals with the resources they need to be safer and more secure online. It’s appropriate that this holiday falls during the month of Halloween, as hackers are the ghouls and goblins of the online world and even mentioning  them causes chills. The last thing we need are more frights during this spooky season.

With so many breaches making news headlines every day, it’s easy to feel as though there’s nothing that we can do to protect our data. However, there are several small steps that make a big impact when it comes to securing your digital footprint.

As a security specialist, I’d never trick you, so let me treat you to a few cybersecurity tips this season. Here are five of my favorites for you to keep in mind.

Don’t Take Digital Candy From Strangers

We tell children not to take candy from strangers because we can’t know their intent or if the candy was altered. The same principle holds true in cybersecurity though the ‘candy’ is now digital. For example, email attachments from unknown sources often harbor dangerous malware. If you don’t know the sender, don’t open the attachment.

Beware of Sharks

Surfing is fun both on and offline. Offline, you choose a good site and keep an eye out for reefs or sharks. Surfing safely online requires knowing the signs and choosing sites wisely. Sites that offer free access such as software, popular games, or newly released movies are red flags. Sites often leverage the “free stuff” ruse to trick people into downloading files that come with an added payload, including spyware, viruses, or even cryptolocker ransomware. Anything that looks too good to be true probably is.

Treat your password like your COVID mask

Passwords, like COVID masks, need to be changed regularly. You should get in the habit of rotating your passwords every few months to reduce risks to your digital health. This also helps thwart credential stuffing attacks.

Criminals buy or steal bulk password lists and try them at different sites. If you reuse passwords, you make it easier for them. Don’t hand out your password to your ‘trusted’ friend/colleague because they need access. Just as sharing masks increases the risk of infection, so does sharing passwords. Password managers — like masks — come in many forms and should be chosen based on your needs.

If one is good, two is better

Bank accounts and new jobs require more than one form of identification. So should your authentication. A system must be confident you are who you claim to be. A password can be hacked or stolen. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) makes it harder for bad actors. When you have the option, enable it.

Enabling multi-factor authentication requires malicious individuals to have access to more than the username and password. That second factor is often something such as your email, biometric form, or a mobile application that generates a secure number. MFA is the deadbolt on the door to your identity. According to a Microsoft Blog, the simple act of adding MFA can block 99.9% of account compromise attacks. Companies like Microsoft offer this extra step in authentication greatly improves your overall account security.

AV is Your BFF

Like a lovable canine companion, anti-virus (AV) software protects you from things you didn’t know were there. You can’t expect to stay on top of every new malware or harmful software that exists, especially with new threats emerging daily. That’s the job of anti-virus software.

When chosen from a reputable vendor —and updated regularly— it serves as your digital watchdog. AV Software alerts you to things such as malicious ads, dangerous scripts embedded in pages, hidden downloads, or software behaving suspiciously. Take your digital watchdog with you every time you go surfing. According to CNET, one of the best current AV options is Microsoft Defender, which is free and comes with all Windows 10 installations by default.

Protecting your data is just as important as protecting your Halloween candy stash. Hopefully, these tips will come in handy in doing just that this holiday season.

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