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Oct 8, 2020

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Thanks to my guests Tom Taylor and Thomas Riebe for going over a fantastic list of items you can do to secure your digital life.

While not a perfect transcript of our episode, here is an overview of all the items that we spoke from in the episode. Use this as a checklist to do your own cybersecurity month health checkup.

  • Make a list of all the online services you use and endeavor to change the password on all of them at least once per year.
  • Consider getting a password manager to help secure and manage your online accounts and passwords to make life easier. BitWarden, Dashlane, and LastPass are all good options that have free versions. Utilize the password manager to ensure that no two passwords are the same. If used properly, you will only need to remember one password and you won't even know the password for your bank account. It takes time to set up a password manager and get used to it, but you will be more secure and it will make life easier.
  • Enable multi-factor authentication on as many accounts as you can. Link your cell phone number, alternate email address, or get a hardware token to secure your online accounts wherever you can.
  • Hardware tokens are easy to use and are a great way to secure your accounts. Hardware tokens are little devices that act as a digital fingerprint. No two are alike, and they allow you to uniquely identify yourself to places like your Bank or Facebook. As long as you have it, and no one else does, no one can get into your accounts.
  • If you are in the market for a hardware token, I recommend starting out with a FIDO2 compatible token. They are inexpensive, offer great security, and are easy to use. FIDO stands for “Fast Identity Online”. At its heart, FIDO is an open security standard, created by companies like Google, RSA, Microsoft, and PayPal in an effort to combat online account theft. FIDO2 is merely the second generation of the technology.
  • FIDO2 tokens are supported by most modern web browsers, and many online services such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and over a hundred other websites. I personally like the Yubico Blue FIDO2 Security tokens. They are very durable and will fit on your keychain. They can be used to protect any number of your online accounts. https://www.yubico.com/products/
  • We generally don’t give house keys to everyone who visits our homes, but we seem to allow everyone to use our WiFi when they visit. Be sure to utilize the guest network feature of your home router to grant guests access, or change the WiFi password on your home router at least once / year if guest network functionality is not available on your router.
  • Keep your antivirus updated on your computers and install all recommended security updates when they are available. There are many choices for home Anti-Virus. Immunet and Sophos are two good free home AV choices.
  • Consider getting a new smartphone if yours is over 5 years old. Smartphones don't last forever. Just because your old phone may still charge and make calls, does not mean it's still good to use. Smartphones need updates just like computers, and eventually, they won't get updates because the manufacturer will stop supporting them.
  • Simplify your digital life. Go back to online services you don't use anymore and close your accounts. This is the same concept as closing out old unused lines of credit or bank accounts at banks you no longer do business with anymore. Unused accounts are a liability that you can easily avoid.
  • Keep tabs on your IoT items such as cameras, virtual assistants, thermostats, and other smart devices. Know what all you have in your home so that you can keep an eye on their vulnerabilities and address them as you become aware. If your home router supports isolating these devices onto their own network, take advantage of those options.
  • Social media has given us all a platform to share our voices, but it’s our choice how we use these platforms. Be careful what you share, and with whom you share. Bad actors can utilize the information you share online against you. What you post and what bad actors see are two very different things.

Take time to read your student or employee handbook policies on social media policies and understand where the line between personal protected speech begins and ends.

To quote the Ivy Tech handbook, "You have rights afforded by state and federal law, but be aware that not everything you say or post online is protected. False, defamatory, harassing, or intimidating postings are not protected free speech. Inappropriate postings about co-workers, students, supervisors, College policies, actions, or decisions could be the basis for disciplinary action."

Be aware of what you have on the internet and consider evaluating your online content from time-to-time.

Lastly, I'd like to remind folks that Fall isn't only about national Cybersecurity awareness month. There’s been a lot going on this year. COVID-19 has affected our communities in many different ways. Technology played a major role in keeping us connected. It allowed us to stay in touch with friends and loved ones, and enabled us to continue our educational goals. In spite of everything that has happened, and all of the amazing things that technology has allowed us to do, it wasn’t technology that got us through this year; it was the people around us. Not only were we #InThisTogether, but we also found out we were stronger together. Be sure to take some time this season and unplug and let the people around you know you’re thankful for them.

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You can connect with Kara Monroe on twitter @KNMTweets

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