October 11, 2016

Simple Steps for Internet Safety

National Cyber Security Awareness Month

[image: Description: DHS graphic for National Cyber Security Awareness
Month, October 2016: Our Shared Responsibility]

In today’s digital world, online safety should be of paramount concern for
all individuals and organizations because the threats posed by cyber
criminals can’t be ignored. And to counteract these threats, there are
steps you can take to minimize the risks associated with doing any kind of
business online, surfing the Internet, and/or sharing information on social
media sites.

The first step to greater Internet safety is a basic yet vital one—change
online passwords several times a year. Use different passwords for each
online account, and make them unique but not easily guessed.

Additional levels of cyber security, like two-factor authentication (TFA),
can provide even greater protection for your information. TFA is a
technology that increases security by incorporating requirements beyond a
password, like a particular physical trait, a dynamic PIN, or the location
or time of a login attempt. Many e-mail service providers and social media
platforms offer TFA as a free service—most require a strong password and
supply a PIN that changes periodically. Users can receive these PINs easily
via mobile applications or text messages.

In terms of social media, remember that once personal or organizational
information has been posted to a social networking site, that information
can no longer be considered private and can be—and sometimes is—used for
criminal purposes. The highest security settings on an Internet account may
not be enough to prevent a leak of sensitive data—for example, cyber
criminals often can obtain personal passwords regardless of their
complexity. In doing so, they can gain access to banking credentials and
credit card numbers, get hold of social security information, download
malware to a computer, or hijack a device to perpetrate further crimes. So
be careful—post as little personal information as possible, use two-factor
authentication, and beware of embedded links that—if clicked on—may lead to
scam webpages and malware being downloaded to your computer or mobile

Another level of online security involves protecting your mobile devices
from cyber intruders in public places. Not all WiFi hotspots at coffee
shops, airports, or hotels have strong security protections. Persons in
close proximity may be able to access that open network and collect your
login information and the content of your online browsing. Securing your
phone or tablet is as simple as avoiding sensitive sites that require a
login, so try to avoid signing into bank accounts, e-mail, or social media
accounts while on a public WiFi hotspot. But if you have to, use a reliable
personal virtual private network (VPN) service provider. A VPN enables data
encryption and adds a layer of security to communications, making it more
difficult for cyber criminals to spy on you.

An out-of-band backup is another useful cyber security technique. This
involves backing up your data to a virtual, cloud environment or storing
hard copies of digital data at a physical location elsewhere. Using this
method is ideal in combating ransomware, a type of malware which restricts
access to files or threatens their destruction unless a ransom is paid to
the cyber-based

Kids too can learn steps to Internet safety through the FBI’s Safe Online
Surfing (SOS) program <>. SOS is a nationwide
initiative designed to educate children from grades 3 to 8 about the
dangers faced when surfing the web. SOS promotes good cyber citizenship
among students by engaging them in a fun, age-appropriate, competitive
online program where they learn how to safely and responsibly use the

Though myriad methods and tools exist to protect the public and
organizations from the risks of cyber crime, your best defense is
understanding and implementing strong security practices and maintaining
them regularly. Doing so can raise a perpetual firewall against cyber
criminals and keep your sensitive data safe.

*More Internet Safety Tips*

§  Protect your computer.  Keep your firewall turned on, and make sure your
antivirus and antispyware software is up to date and your operating system
is current. And be very careful what you download—opening an e-mail
attachment from someone you don’t know or even forwarded attachments from
people you do know could potentially infect your computer with malicious

§  Beware of social media scams. One of those scams involves posts on
social media sites appearing to offer vouchers or gift cards that require
you to fill out a survey, but that survey is designed to steal your
personal information. Also, don’t post pictures of theater, concert, or
sporting event tickets on social media—fraudsters can create a fake ticket
using the barcode obtained from the photo.

§  Smartphone App Scams. Before downloading an app from an unknown source,
look for third-party reviews. Some apps, often disguised as games and
offered for free, may be designed to steal personal information from your

§  Be on the lookout for online shopping scams. Scammers often defraud
consumers by offering too-good-to-be-true deals via phishing e-mails or
advertisements on untrusted websites—including offers for brand name
merchandise at extremely low discounts or promises of gift cards as
incentives to purchase products. You may end up paying for an item, giving
away personal information and credit card details in the process, and
receive nothing in return except a compromised identity.

§  Don’t fall for work-from-home scams. You may see websites or postings
offering work you can do from the comfort of your own home, but many of
these opportunities have unscrupulous motivations behind them. Always
carefully research the job posting and the individual or company offering
you employment.

As always, if you suspect you’ve been the victim of a cyber crime, contact
law enforcement and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime
Complaint Center <>.

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