Cybersecurity Tips For The New Year

2020 was a year filled with change and learning how to adapt our ways into COVID-19 protocol friendly ones. With these changes, many people started moving their lives to be online. Work meetings, education of all levels, shopping, and even holiday events became remote. With the increase in internet use, cybersecurity professionals saw cybercrimes committed at an all-time high.

That made this past Cybersecurity Awareness Month in October even more valuable than ever. The National Cyber Security Alliance, in partnership with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, created this year’s theme of “Do Your Part and Be Cyber Smart”.

Our Leahy Center employees decided to be apart of this semester’s virtual events by submitting their tips for the five topics of the do your part theme. For the New Year, we decided to share two of the themes and our tips on how to stay safe. The students range in different positions, majors, and academic years, but all provide great wisdom for anyone looking to stay safe online.

Theme 1: If You Connect It, Protect It

The prompt was described as If you connect it, protect it. The line between our online and offline lives is indistinguishable. This network of connections creates both opportunities and challenges for individuals and organizations across the globe. The first week of Cybersecurity Awareness Month will highlight how internet-connected devices have impacted our lives and will empower all users to own their role in security by taking steps to reduce their risks. Our students said:

“With more and more of our appliances connected to the internet, including locks, mailboxes, refrigerators, watches, and much more, physical security and cybersecurity are becoming the same. To maintain physical security in this world of smart devices, you have to educate yourself about good cybersecurity practices, too. As great as it is that you can lock your door remotely, it’s vital to consider the risks of what somebody could do with unauthorized access to these tools you’re using. Before buying a new smart device, consider these risks. Do some research on the manufacturer’s history in cybersecurity. Ask yourself if the convenience is worth the risks associated with it. Understanding the risks is crucial.”

Sawyer Zundel ’23 // Computer & Digital Forensics

We buy a lot of stuff online these days. Often we may be on a risky website without realizing it. If you are purchasing anything online, make sure the website’s link begins with “HTTPS://” as opposed to “HTTP://”. The “s” at the end of “HTTP” stands for secure. So any transitions on a website that uses “HTTP” would be unsecured. The Chrome and Firefox add-on/extensions “HTTPS everywhere” is a useful tool to help ensure this if you are unsure.

Blaise Notter ’23 // Computer Networking & Cybersecurity

Theme 2: Securing Devices at Home and Work

Week 2 of Cybersecurity Awareness Month was described as: focusing on steps users and organizations can take to protect internet-connected devices for personal and professional use. With more people now working from home, these two internet-connected environments are colliding on a scale we’ve never seen before. This introduces a whole new set of potential vulnerabilities that users must be conscious of.

“The best way to protect users’ information is to be cautious. The first step would be to use a password when possible. Better yet different passwords so if one account is breached, they all aren’t. The next step would be to not give out information unless needed and to a trusted individual. This means not going to suspicious websites, where info can be stolen by force. As well as being cautious that a website is who they say they are.”

Spencer Bellucci ’22 // Computer Science

“Nowadays, VPN’s have gotten to the point where they are extremely cheap and relatively fast. Whether you are at home or surfing the internet at a Starbucks, the added protection is defiantly worth the $3 a month. It will protect you from various tracking threats/ annoyances by encrypting all of the traffic that leaves your computer. When shopping around for one, I would look for one that does not keep logs of its user’s data as well as has software that works on most devices. The two I have used and recommend the most are TorGuard and Private Internet Access (PIA).”

Thomas Autiello ’23 // Computer Networking & Cybersecurity

Other Tips: Students WANT You To Know

With the rise in interconnected devices, it’s important to remember that anything connected to the outside world can be attacked. Taking simple steps such as secure passwords and using password-protected Wi-Fi signals can help immensely when it comes to the security of any device.

Miranda Evans ’22 // Computer & Digital Forensics

Most people keep their life online — whether it be through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or others — so it is always important to remember that the online world is no different than the “real” world. This includes the information you post publicly, from photos, dates, friends, statuses, addresses, and more. At face value, it is fun to use social media outlets to express yourself and snap a photo here and there or use it to promote communication, but everyone must do their part to protect themselves and those around them regarding the information they post. Would you post your phone number on your front lawn? Would you print a map of the local places you’ve been, and with whom, to hand out at your grocery store? Though this information is expressive and fun to share with friends, there are always opportunities for unwanted attention from others when you post it online.

Alexandra Cartwright ’22 // Computer & Digital Forensics

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