October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM for short). As more and more of what we do each day exists online, we need to constantly monitor and prevent security threats to our accounts and electronic devices. Below are three ways that you can stay safe online, courtesy of staysafeonline.org:
Beware of Phishing - Phishing attackers use links in emails and websites to trick you into giving out your personal information, which could be used to compromise the security of email, bank accounts, and more. Phishing impacts both individuals and businesses, and everyone is at risk for a phishing email attack. To protect yourself, do not share personal or financial information in an email, pay attention to the website’s URL when entering personal information online, and do not click on links from senders that you do not know. To test your ability to distinguish phishing email from a legitimate email, try this quiz: https://phishingquiz.withgoogle.com/
Password StrengthPassword Strength - A password is only as good as its strength! Current research into password strength shows that a password should be both complex and long. Complexity is measured in the variety of characters used - numbers, symbols, and letters. Mixing those characters up can result in a strong password. In addition, a password should be 12 characters or longer to be considered strong. Many experts advise users to consider developing a passphrase instead of a password. The passphrase could be a sentence or a group of words together (with some numbers and characters mixed in) - the unpredictability of a phrase vs a word increases the password strength. In addition, have separate passphrases for all of your accounts to give yourself an additional level of security.
Keep your software up to date - Those annoying pop-ups asking you to update your apps and operating system? They are actually really important in the fight to keep your devices safe and secure. Update your web browsers, mobile apps, and operating systems when a new release comes out. Usually those updates contain important patches for vulnerabilities that have been discovered - without the updates, you are putting your devices at risk. Also, keep an eye on your app permissions on your smartphone, and delete any apps that you do not currently use (you can always download them again if you need them in the future).
Here at LuHi, we implement best practices as much as possible to keep our users safe online. Our Google email system flags suspicious emails as spam, and suspends accounts that are potentially compromised. Our various user accounts - such as myLuHi, email, and our wifi system - require secure passwords for all users. This can be a pain when trying to remember passwords, but the security settings give an additional level of safety to our network. Our wifi network has a strong filter that is constantly monitored.
In reality, though, much of the responsibility of being cyber-safe falls on all of our users! Educating our students, staff, and faculty on cybersecurity issues - both the risks as well as proactive ways to protect oneself - is the best way to ensure safety online. Through classes like Focus in the middle school and Freshman Focus in 9th grade, students are introduced to issues in cybersecurity. In 10th grade, students will complete a unit of study on cybersecurity during their Computer Logic class, and those ideas will be reinforced throughout the rest of their time at LuHi. Cybersecurity is an issue that is not going away, but through education and reinforcement our students can develop behaviors that can help them stay safe online.
Interested in learning more about how to keep yourself - and your data - safe? Check out all the resources for National Cybersecurity Awareness Month at https://staysafeonline.org/.