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Cybersecurity Awareness

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Understanding the Basics of Online Safety and Security

Americans use over three million GB of internet data a minute. Clearly, being online is now a way of life for many, though going online is not without risk. Engaging in safe and secure online practices helps protect you against those risks.

Shopping, surfing, banking and gaming – these common everyday online activities have the potential to unleash a variety of cyber threats to gain unauthorized access to data, identity theft, bullying, location tracking and phishing, to name just a few. How can we decrease our risk from these cyber threats without abandoning our online activities altogether?

Here are some basic tips everyone can follow to stay secure while online:

  • Set up alerts. Consider setting up alerts on your financial accounts. Many credit card companies and banks allow you to set up alerts on your accounts via their websites. These alerts range from sending you an email or text each time a transaction happens on your account to alerts when transactions meet or exceed a designated spending limit that you set. These alerts keep you in control of your accounts' activities and are useful because they make you aware of what's going on quicker than waiting for monthly statements. When you receive an alert about a transaction that you did not authorize, you can reach out to the credit card company or bank immediately. Log into your credit card company and banking websites to set up alerts on your accounts.
  • Keep devices and apps up to date. This familiar tip is useful even if you are just casually surfing the internet. Keeping your devices up to date (including apps and operating systems) ensures you have the latest security fixes.
  • Don't use public Wi-Fi. In addition to an updated device, the network the device is connected to is also important. Did you have to enter a password to connect to a Wi-Fi network? If you did, that network is more secure than an open one that any device within range can connect to. Whenever possible, use a secure network, especially when banking or shopping online.
  • Use the university’s VPN. VPN stands for virtual private network, and its main purpose is to provide a tunnel for encrypted internet traffic. If you are connected to the internet without using the university’s VPN, your traffic is passed through the internet service provider's servers. The location of your device is known, and if you are connected to a public Wi-Fi network, there is a risk of snooping by other devices on the same network. Connecting to the university’s VPN redirects your internet traffic to a remote server, encrypting the traffic, and reducing the snooping risk.
  • Create unique passwords. Using the same password for multiple sites is not a best practice. Suppose that one of your accounts suffered a data breach and your password was exposed. If you reused this password on other accounts, it's likely that someone would be able to access those accounts as well (especially if your user name is an email address). Consider using LastPass, the university’s chosen password manager, to manage all your passwords. Not only does this tool manage all your passwords, LastPass can also create strong passwords and can even autofill your username and password as you go to websites on different browsers.
  • Be vigilant. Be aware, there are fake websites out there waiting to collect your valuable information. Make sure you are on a legitimate site by double-checking the URL website address to make sure it is spelled correctly. Also, make sure you see a padlock and “https://” in the URL.

Remember that you are in control of your online activities. Following these security tips will give you the peace of mind you deserve while online.

 

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