Home » Digital Security » Improving Cyber Safety Starts With You
Digital Security

Improving Cyber Safety Starts With You

Photo: Courtesy of Bruce Mars
avatar

Todd Thibodeaux

President and CEO, The Computing Technology Industry Association

As hackers and cybercriminals are growing in numbers and creativity, many consumers have trouble staying ahead of the new threats that emerge daily, struggling to decide what to do or not do. 

With a few common-sense steps and a bit of vigilance, consumers can feel safer online.

The usual suspects

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center 2018 Internet Crime Report includes information from nearly 352,000 complaints of suspected internet crime, with reported losses in excess of $2.7 billion. The top three crime types reported were non-payment/non-delivery, extortion, and personal data breach. 

If you think your home network is too small of a target for a cyberattack, or that the many connected devices present in your home have built-in security that’s good enough, you are wrong on both counts.

Most cyberattacks are not personal in nature. Rather, they are crimes of opportunity, made possible by faulty security practices for devices and networks. If it’s connected to the internet, it’s susceptible to outside threats unless precautions are taken.

Safety steps

One such precaution is to stay current with software updates and patches for all devices that connect to the internet. Software updates add new features and functions, but in many instances they also include critical fixes to counter a real threat or vulnerability that’s been identified. Delaying software upgrades only serves to raise the odds of an attack. 

Smart phones, tablets, computers typically have auto-updating features, but many other connected devices do not. Be sure to check regularly for software updates on routers and any other devices around your home that connect to the internet, or to computers and mobile devices, most often by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

When adding new devices to your home network, be sure to change the factory-installed default configurations, usernames, and passwords. Leaving these unchanged creates  opportunities for outsiders to gain unauthorized access to information, install malicious software (malware), and cause other problems.

Staying vigilant

Always proceed with a “buyer beware” mindset before buying a new connected device. Do a little research first. There are a variety of ways to see if a vendor or product has known privacy or security issues. You can search for vendors and specific products to see if they have known vulnerabilities and whether they’ve been patched.

Another option is to visit the Better Business Bureau site to see if other customers have reported issues, or if there are government actions against the company. You can also use your favorite search engine to look for the product or vendor name with the word “recall”to see if there are any recalls under way.

Finally, make it a habit to regularly back up your data and valuable information, either to an external device or a cloud-based service. These backups are crucial to minimize the impact if data is lost, corrupted, infected, or stolen.

Todd Thibodeaux, President and CEO, The Computing Technology Industry Association, [email protected]

Next article