10 tips to prepare for Cyber Security month

October is Cyber Security Month in Europe and the U.S. It was devised to raise awareness of the increasingly complex and severe threats that exist online. In Europe, it’s being headed up by the European Commission, while in the States, Homeland Security is taking charge.

There are all sorts of events you can get involved with, but we thought now would be a good time to address any security vulnerabilities you might have on your own devices. So here are ten tips to make sure that you reduce the probability of being the victim of a cyber security attack.

1. Make sure your password is secure.

Any account you have should be protected by a strong password. We put a guide together here on how you can do this. Passwords should be over 8 characters long, a mixture of upper and lowercase, and include some numbers and special characters (like @, ?, /, or %)

2. Choose random passwords

You shouldn’t be using names of familiar things as your password. So that means no boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, pets, or kids if you have them. Birthdays and phone numbers are also out.

3. Don’t re-use your passwords

It sounds obvious, but if you reuse passwords a hacker only needs to get one and then they could easily gain access to other services. Each service should use a different password.

To help with all your password needs, it might be an idea to purchase a password manager, like Dashlane and LastPass. These products will create random secure passwords for you, log you in automatically, and let you know if any services you use have been compromised. You only need to remember one master password and they sync across desktop and mobile too.

4. Change passwords frequently

It is good practice to update your passwords every three months (often 72 days). Sometimes it takes months or years for compromised passwords to be sold. If you regularly change your password, you lower the chances you’ll be affected if a hacked website comes to light.

5. Don’t keep a password list on your PC

If you must keep a list of passwords, make sure it is not stored on your PC. And if it’s written down in your home, make sure it’s somewhere safe. But we wouldn’t recommend having one anyway!

6. Update your software

Whether its apps on your smartphone, programs on your PC, or the operating systems on your devices, you absolutely need to update software as soon as you are prompted. New updates are often released because the companies have discovered a vulnerability. So as soon as you see that pop-up or notification, don’t put it off, press accept, download and install the latest version!

7. Beware of email scams

We’ve covered some of the most popular scams on JustAskGemalto before, but you should be very careful about clicking links in email and opening attachments. You must check if the email address is from someone you know, is spelt correctly, and the attachments or links are what you expect to see.

If in doubt, you should get in touch with the sender – but not by replying to the email! Instead call or send the sender a text to see if the email is genuine. Only when you know it’s safe, should you open the attachment or click on the links.

8. Password protect your laptop and smartphone

You should definitely have a password on your laptop or smartphone as a first line of defense. This way if it is physically stolen, hackers will have a hard time trying to break in.

9. Don’t be an administrator

On PCs, you can create user accounts, without admin rights. This restricts access to important items like the registry. This means if someone hacks your PC, or some malware runs, they won’t have easy access to the important parts of your PC.

10. Install malware protection

Again, we have covered some of the most popular programs available, but it is essential that you run effective security software on all your devices, including your smartphones.

If you have any other tips, do get in touch, and we hope you enjoy cyber security month if you’re taking part in any activities.