MADISON, Wis. — As technology takes an ever-growing role in our lives, it also grows in complexity and keeping up with security advice can be confusing.
“It seems like there is always new guidance on what you should or should not be doing,’ said David Cagigal, chief information officer with the Wisconsin Department of Administration’s Division of Enterprise Technology. “However, while the details of how to stay secure may change over time, there are fundamental things you can always do to protect yourself.”
You: Attackers have learned that the easiest way to bypass even the most advanced security technology is by attacking you. If they want your password, credit card, or personal data, the easiest thing for them to do is to trick you into giving them this information. For example, someone may call you pretending to be from a software company’s tech support team and claim that your computer is infected, when in reality they are just cyber criminals that want you to give them access to your computer. Ultimately, the greatest defense against attackers is you. Be suspicious. By using common sense, you can spot and stop most attacks.
Passwords: The next step to protecting yourself involves using a strong, unique password for each of your devices and online accounts. A strong password means one that cannot be easily guessed by hackers or by their automated programs. Are you tired of complex passwords that are hard to remember and difficult to type? Try using a passphrase instead. Instead of a single word, use a series of words that is easy to remember, such as “Where is my coffee?” The longer your passphrase is, the stronger. A unique password means using a different password for each device and online account. This way, if one password is compromised, all of your other accounts and devices are still safe.
Updating: Make sure your computers, mobile devices, apps, and anything else connected to the Internet are running the latest software versions. Cyber criminals are constantly looking for new vulnerabilities in the software your devices use. When they discover vulnerabilities, they use special programs to exploit them and hack into the devices you are using. Meanwhile, the companies that created the software for these devices are hard at work fixing them by releasing updates. By ensuring your computers and mobile devices install these updates you make it much harder for someone to hack you.
Backups: Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, you may be hacked. If that is the case, often your only option to ensure your computer or mobile device is free of malware is to fully wipe it and rebuild it from scratch. The attacker might even prevent you from accessing your personal files, photos, and other information stored on the hacked system. Often the only way to restore all of your personal information is from backup. Make sure you are doing regular backups of any important information and verify that you can restore from them.
This October, ReadyWisconsin will highlight efforts to keep everyone in Wisconsin safe from cybercrime. Visit https://readywisconsin.wi.gov for more information. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.