Happy Halloween, muh, ha, ha, ha…! This month’s mashup of All Hallows Eve AND National Cyber Security Awareness Month has us thinking about scary new security risks, and the steps people can take to stay safe online. Here are a few tips to help you avoid being another victim of online ghouls:
Think before you link! – Remember how that character in scary movies ALWAYS opens the door that the audience knows they SHOULD.NEVER.EVER.OPEN? Clueless! Just like opening that scary door, clicking on unknown hyperlinks on your screen is one thing you should never do because it can turn your computer into a zombie! Click the wrong link and suddenly your PC or Mac is following orders from a malevolent leader, spewing out spam and out of your control. Everyone knows that phishing attacks entice you to click that evil link putting your computer on the path to zombie-land. The latest? “zpear phishing” techniques are even more sophisticated, and include enough personal information about you to make the offer look legitimate. If something doesn’t appear right, stop, think, and look before you click.
Mask your social activities – Evildoers target “spear phishing” attacks by gathering personal information about you and your contacts. Be skeptical about responding to requests for personal information in any context, even from well-known social applications like LinkedIn and Facebook. Another thing: shut down your social applications when you’re not using them. Facebook’s Open Graph can be accessed by malware and used to trick you and your friends. Even though social applications may just look like a fun place to hang out with friends, remember that there might be a monster lurking in the shadows. There are boundless horror stories that have been told about such social network exploits.
Protect your data – One way to keep yourself safe in a spooky cyberland is to encrypt your data. If you think the word encrypt sounds like it should be part of a frightful poem by Edgar Allen Poe, you need to learn about this important tool. It’s a way to lock your data in a safe place, so only people with the right “keys” can access it. Another important way to protect your data is to use strong, unique passwords. Most people already know that passwords are important for your computer, even though studies show that a good percentage don’t use sufficiently strong password protection. As more people use smartphones, it’s essential to password-protect your phone, too. Your phone is an open door to all kinds of sensitive information: business email, home addresses, photos etc. Passwords on your phone can help keep the devils from darkening your doorstep.
Update your software — The scary guys can get into your system by exploiting vulnerabilities in your software – especially if you do not keep it up-to-date. These spooky characters are always looking for these openings, which are like an unlocked door or window, so they can get inside and do bad things. Software vendors protect you by releasing new versions of their programs that are less vulnerable to attack – sort of like installing a “new and improved” lock on the door. At the same time, some of the updates include advanced new capabilities. It’s safer to update your software regularly.
Backup your data – You never know when goblins might manage to get into your gadgets, and a back-up plan is important. It’s essential that you back up data that is on your phone and computer, automatic online backup is the first and best backup plan. Mozy has got your back and will be there to protect you and your valuable photos, documents, records and data from and evil tricksters lurking in the shadows.
Mozy hopes you stay safe and sound on these cold dark nights!!
Brad Gobble is Sr. Manager of Information Security at Mozy.