6 Tips for Cleaning up your Cyber Hygiene
In honor of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we asked David Whipple, PhD, adjunct professor in Drexel's MS in Cybersecurity program and Steven Weber, PhD, professor in the College of Engineering, about cybersecurity and its omnipresent role in our lives.
Generally speaking, we are usually unaware of the full digital footprint we leave behind in cyberspace. From social media to email to internet browsing, our daily digital activity can leave us vulnerable.
“The devil is in the details,” says Weber, emphasizing the fact that we often overlook the fine print and are completely unaware of where our personal information can go.
For example, free email services collect
information that can be vulnerable to mass
hackings; while websites and cloud-services providers have varying policies
that, in many cases,
our data to be sold to third-parties, often
without our consent.
With the explosion of IOT—the ‘Internet of Things’—more devices use internet connectivity to function, leaving us even more susceptible to cyber concerns.
While university researchers, government bodies and various industry representatives are analyzing the future of cybersecurity, it’s also up to individuals to maintain their own safety, to a certain degree.
In the United States, federal policies don’t always protect the user, and even in the majority of workplaces, cybersecurity remains a big question mark, according to Whipple. So start practicing good ‘cyber hygiene’ with these tips below.
- Virus Protection
"Anti-virus software is a helpful but certainly not foolproof means of protecting your computer from malware. There are a variety of AV products available for all major operating systems. These products include active scanning to, say, block unauthorized connections to your computer and check that the files on your system are malware-free." (Weber)
- File Backup
“I recommend a three-tiered approach for consumers wishing to back up their personal computers: cloud backup, local backup, and offsite backup…A local backup consists of a USB drive attached to your computer, running a backup program such as Apple's Time Machine. An offsite backup may consist of a second USB drive that you store in a secure location away from your home, such as in a safe-deposit box with your bank.” (Weber)
- Safe Emailing
“Basic steps to detect phishing email include carefully looking at the ‘from’ email address and the web address (URL) of any links in the message. Also, be very careful of opening attachments—never open attachments sent to you by unknown parties, and be extra careful to check the legitimacy of a message asking you to open an attachment. Finally, never send passwords over email.” (Weber)
- Password Management
“Use a unique password for every account that you have. Use something that’s at least eight characters long, no word that is found in the dictionary; use uppercase, lowercase and special characters.” (Whipple)
“Any time you can go to a two-factor authentication system, you’re better. A password and your username can be passed around to other people—the two-factor authentication system can’t.” (Whipple)
- Encrypted Apps
“Put an encrypted app on your phone that has your unique passwords—and never reuse your passwords.” (Whipple)
Weber urges users to report cybercrime to the United States Department of Justice Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS).
“We live in a rapidly changing landscape in terms of convenience, security, and privacy,” says Weber.
On one hand, instant gratification
digital world is now an expectation; on the other hand, this looseness of trust
is quite possibly our biggest downfall.
The key is responsible caution.
“You don’t know what the other person’s capable of until you get to know them,” says Whipple. “You have to have a respect of boundaries. Respect yourself.”
For more tips, see the Department of Homeland Security’s website.