October is National Cyber Security month. There are simple, inexpensive (free) steps individuals and businesses can take to secure their own virtual assets.
Many of us now have wireless routers that provide Wi-Fi throughout our homes and workplaces. Leaving these networks “open” invites unauthorized people to not only piggyback on your system but may allow them to enter connected devices and steal information such as bank account numbers, credit card accounts or personal information needed to commit identity theft. Businesses can lose customer data or other proprietary information that can give their competitors an advantage. The wireless routers need to have all of their security features activated. Many of these routers will come with a default SSID (its name) and password set at the factory. The name is often the brand name of the router and the password usually “password” or a simple number “1111”. These should both be changed. This article will walk you through the steps needed to secure your router: http://compnetworking.about.com/cs/wirelessproducts/qt/adminpassword.htm
Many of our physical devices: computer, tablet or smartphone and our accounts: email, Facebook, Banking, Credit Card accounts etc. are secured with passwords. All passwords are not created equal. Cyber thieves use programs to try passwords over and over to try and gain access to hardware or accounts. They start with commonly used, you can see what they are here: http://blog.eset.com/2012/06/07/passwords-and-pins-the-worst-choices or a word that has significance to the user middle name, children’s name, anniversary etc. A strong password will use both CAPITAL and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. It will be at least eight (8) characters and preferably longer, it will not be a word in a dictionary and won’t be something that has a connection to the user. A random collection of letters, numbers and symbols is best but can be hard to remember. These passwords should not be written down and the same password should not be used to secure more than one account. Sounds daunting. Rather than thinking in terms of words think of a phrase; an easy example: “I love dogs” next take out all of the spaces: “Ilovedogs” now replace some letters with numbers or symbols. For example use an exclamation point for the letter I “!lovedogs” replace the O in dogs with a zero “!loved0gs” and finally capitalize at least one of the letters and add punctuation “!Loved0gs?” Pick a phrase that means something to you and make substitutions that you will remember. If the program allows you to store password hints in case the password is forgotten select one that will remind you of your phrase. The password: “1etsgoMets#” could have the reminder “Baseball”.
Securing your wireless router, other hardware and accounts is a good first step to securing your virtual world. Take the time during Cyber Security Month to take this first step. I monitor emerging threats through various security and law enforcement sources. I regularly send out alerts of these threats via my Twitter account.