Cyber Security 101
Cyber Security

Cyber Security 101.

The internet is involved in every single individual’s life. Today there are close to 3 billion internet users world-wide (almost 300 million in America alone). Whether you use it regularly or not, the internet contains tons of personal information about you: your banking information, your search histories, your Facebook profile… It even still holds onto things you think were deleted long ago. Whether it’s at work, school, home, or on the go, most of us use the web on a daily basis. Through smart phones and other technology, we are constantly connected, leaving us at risk for cyber-attacks. October 31st marks the end of the 11th annual Cyber Security Awareness Month. In honor of Cyber Security Awareness Month, we’d like to discuss the basics, and talk about where cyber security is headed in the future. Read on:

What is Cyber Security?

As the number of internet users continues to increase, it puts us at a greater and greater risk for our information to become compromised. The opportunities to become exploited increase every moment. Cyber security ensures that you have taken the proper measures to protect your identity online. It focuses on protecting computers, networks, programs, and data from unauthorized access. The good news is that even though hackers or cyber intruders become more prevalent and more skilled, the technology to keep them at bay is also increasing.

Why is Cyber Security important?

Imagine the information that you have accessed via your computer or smart phone. Was it your bank account? Did you apply for a loan? Did your friends wish you a happy birthday? Even if you simply made a Google search for a product, that information is tracked via a series of incredibly talented and technical programs. Have you ever noticed how ads online sometimes actually appeal to you? That is because everything you do on the internet is tracked by search engines.

While the thought is scary, it’s also a very helpful tool for us as users. We have easier access to information and products. The possibilities of what we can do online now are incomparable to what we could do even just five or ten years ago.

Large institutions such as governments, military, corporations, financial institutions, even small businesses and hospitals are able to extrapolate data from across networks. For the most part, they are currently gathering information such as your search queries, how long you stay on certain pages, and how often you frequent them.

The problem arises when this power falls into the hands of people who intend to use your information maliciously. Hackers can find access to your passwords, your online habits, and other personal information. Often times, the internet is the main vehicle for identity theft.

During a Senate hearing in 2013, top intelligence officials cautioned that attacks on cyber security eclipses terrorism as a top threat to national security.

How to protect yourself

Protecting yourself online is incredibly important. As a social media user, make sure to check the security settings that you have set up on your accounts. Make everything private so that only approved contacts can view your posted material. Never open emails that have arrived in your inbox unsolicited or that seem suspicious. Many times, online criminals will send very official emails pretending to be from a trusted source. Ignore the prompts that require you to change passwords via strange links. If you need to change your passwords, make sure that you have prompted the change. Go directly to the site rather than entering via links. Check the URL to make sure it aligns with your desired destination.

When doing online banking, sign up for text alerts that will be sent automatically to your mobile device if large purchases or unusual activity is experienced. Sites like Mint.com are great for tracking your online banking and letting you know when unusual activity is occurring.

Lastly, never share your passwords or save them to your computer. Don’t log into unprotected Wi-Fi sources.

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