October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Online Security Basics

person using laptop with hand on the mouse

Did you know that October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM)? NCSAM is a collaborative effort between the federal government and U.S. industry to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and to help ensure that all Americans have the information they may use to be more knowledgeable and more secure online. This year NCSAM is emphasizing personal accountability and stressing the importance of taking proactive steps to enhance cybersecurity at home and in the workplace.

Following are just a few simple suggestions shared from the U.S. National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies to assist in being more aware of cybersecurity risks and staying more secure online:

Use Multi-Factor Authentication

Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) to ensure that the only person who has access to your online accounts is you. Multi-factor authentication means you have to use a second hardware device or special software to guarantee who you are before you are allowed to access your accounts. This secondary device could be your smartphone, an authenticator app, or an encrypted token—a small physical device you can carry on your key ring, such as a security key. MFA may usually be used for email, banking, social media, and any other service that requires logging in.

Improve Your Passwords

It is generally safer to use the longest password or passphrase that an online site allows. Put more effort into customizing your passwords for different sites, which can prevent cybercriminals from gaining access to these accounts—and also help protect you if that site’s security is breached.

Get a Password Manager

There are numerous password manager tools that install into your browser that generate secure passwords and store them all in one encrypted place.

Keep Your Software Current

Regularly keep your software updated to the latest version available; this includes security software, web browser, and operating systems. Within the settings for your browser and other software, you may turn on automatic updates so you don’t have to do a manual update, and set your anti-virus/malware software to run regular system scans of your entire computer.

Beef up Your Browser

There are many authenticated, safe browser add-ons/extensions from well-known security companies that can harden your browser against attacks and help guard your privacy. Investigate them carefully and consider adding them to your browser.

Staying safe online is a constant effort; the cybercriminals are always vigilant for opportunities to harm others, and you must be equally thorough about protecting yourself and those you care about. For this year’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM), invest some time in doing more to protect yourself—be smart, learn more, and take action to boost your safety online.