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A Quick Refresher

As we move ahead, taking advantage of the energy of the new year and work to get our annual plans moving, sometimes rushing to get a lot more done than usual since we now know the unexpected is all that can be expected, let’s have a quick refresher.

On what, you ask?  Smart, safe, and sane cyber practices.

The smart and safe are obvious, but sane?  Well, we can lose our mind if we try to comprehend all of the things that we need to know.  And sometimes that means we shut down from feeling overwhelmed at the notion of trying to learn anything.  Small bites are what this is about, or should we say, small bytes.  So here are a few to get those walls around your identity and data strengthened.

Like changing batteries in your smoke detector, you need to change your passwords when there’s a beep – or in this case, alert that you’ve been compromised.  Do it right away, and make sure that you create something that is not the same one with a number after it.  Make it a phrase or quote that you love.  Make the E’s into 3’s.  Mix it up with a special character.  Just change it – and ensure it that the same one isn’t used elsewhere.  If so, change those. Yes, all of them.  Use a password manager that offers to create and save strong passwords for each account.  And ALWAYS use two-factor authentication when it is available.  Did you know that many web browsers save your password and will alert you if you have compromised accounts?  A quick search or consult with your IT company can help you to do this.

Refresh your clicker skills.  When you get an email with a link, what should you do?  Well, we’d like you to NOT click on anything, but if you have an itchy twitch to do so, hover first.  Does the link that pops up match the site you’re being told it will direct to?  Hackers can cleverly disguise emails, links, names, and entire sites to look identical to the one you see in an email.  Clicking on a fraudulent link can take you to corrupt site, or worse, it can deploy a virus to your entire system.  Sometimes you don’t realize it’s been deployed until months go by and it has silently collected invaluable data for the entire time.  As a safety measure, if an email comes from your bank for example, click out of the email and go to the bank’s official site to see if the messaging in there too.  Call them if you aren’t sure – using the number you know, not the one in the email.

Network, but do it safely.  Gone are the days of professional networking events – at least for now.  It just isn’t safe, and neither are public networks of the coffee shop kind.  Free Wi-Fi will set you up for exposure to people that are just waiting to see you connect so that they can collect.  Your data, that is.  Create a hotspot with your phone or wait until you are safely at home using your secured network.  Are you not sure how-to setup a hotspot?  Your wireless carrier or IT support team can help with that.  Ask about using a VPN, which stands for virtual private network.  This provides an additional layer of security for you and your devices.

We all need a nudge sometimes to mind our manners here and there.  The same goes for these little things that we do regularly, and can become lazy or a little sloppy over time with the redundancy of doing them.  Consider this your reminder to sit up straight and be secure.  Your identity depends on it.