A collaborative effort between government and industry, National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) is observed every October in an effort to ensure every American has the resources they need to stay safer and more secure online.
National Cybersecurity Awareness Month focuses on a different theme each year. This year, it will emphasize personal accountability and stress the importance of taking proactive steps to enhance cybersecurity at home and in the workplace.
WhiteHat Security experts have shared some tips and best practices to ensure you and your kids stay safe when online.
Strengthen Your Passwords
- Use a password manager! (I like Bitwarden) – Bryan Becker, Product Manager
- Never use common or repetitive passwords for your online accounts. Use complex phrases at least 12-characters long and include special characters and numbers in it. – Sandeep Potdar, Principal Product Manager
- Use a passphrase that is not easily guessable. – Lauren McCaslin, Vulnerability Verification Team Lead
- Use multi-factor authentication when possible. If a website or app allows for multi-factor authentication, the hassle is worth the extra level of security. This is usually in the form of a code that comes to your registered phone or email address. – Harold Sasaki, Director, IT and TechOps
Think Before You Click
- Don’t click suspicious links in emails, ever. Nothing good has ever come of that. – Bryan Becker
- Look out for invasive advertising and don’t click, however enticing the offer seems to be. If a website contains a large number of ads that pop up automatically, the site is most likely not legit. Being proactive is the best approach: placing an ad blocker within the web browser can help prevent any unsavory adverts. – Rachael Andrews, vulnerability verification specialist
Caution When Shopping Online
Harold Sasaki advises on being cautious while making online purchases. It’s best to stay with secure sites. “Stores like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and Nordstrom spend a lot of money and resources to make sure your data is safe. Just because a store uses encryption does not mean that once they have your data that it is kept secure. Avoid smaller unknown sites that may or may not have the proper level of security for your data. Larger established companies also usually have a well-defined process for disputing purchases that may be a fraud. Keep an eye on your credit card statements for unauthorized charges, even at stores you normally shop at.”
Check Twice Before You Post
Another piece of good advice from Harold Sasaki: “Keep social media content private. Unless you are a movie star, or these days a YouTube star, you should be careful about what personal data you post on social media. This is a common way that celebrities get hacked as passwords are often derived from pets’ names, favorite foods, or other personal information. Public personal data also increases your risk of identity theft.”
Insecure Public WiFi
“When connected to the internet using public WiFi at restaurants, airports, etc., always use a VPN to avoid any snooping or man-in-the-middle attacks. And even before you travel or are in a different country, assume that anything you post online is not private. So try not to post any personal details such as addresses, phone numbers, travel plans, etc. online unless really necessary,” says Sandeep Potdar.
Social Media Access and Restrictions
Harold Sasaki suggests, “Restrict kids from setting up social media accounts. Social media apps should be restricting kids from setting up accounts. 13 is the age to be compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Some apps have a kids’ version that helps protect a child from some features and content. A good percentage of kids put in a false birthdate to get around these restrictions. You will need to monitor your kids’ usage and apps. Kids will usually try to get as many friends, followers, and subscribers. Many of these will be friends of friends or even strangers.”
Online Time Limits with Parental Controls
Hours and hours of staying online is definitely not proving to be beneficial to kids, and above all, it increases the surface area for exposure to more cyber threats. Harold Sasaki suggests parents work with their kids to implement online time limits. “Put a time limit on devices and turn them off at night. Related to social media, kids get a rush from seeing who liked their picture or post. These distractions take away from homework time, family time, and even sleep time. Just like gambling, alcohol, and some more healthy activities, kids get a rush of dopamine for responses to their social media. Beyond restrictions on devices, some WiFi routers allow for time restrictions on internet access.”
Harold also advises on looking up content control in addition to time limits. “Most phones allow for parental restrictions to content including movies, music, and online purchases. There are usually multiple levels of ratings that can correspond to the age of your child. Implement those and let your kids know as well.”
Each and every one of us needs to do our part to make sure that our online lives are kept safe and secure. That’s what National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) is all about!