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National cybersecurity awareness month: simple steps for online safety

With each new devastating breach of security—Equifax, Deloitte, and Sonic, to name a few recent cyber fails—the need for increased cybersecurity awareness has never been more apparent. It’s a good thing, then, that this month is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM).

Observed every October since 2004, NCSAM was created by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance to ensure that every American has the resources they need to stay safer and more secure online. According to the Department of Homeland Security, NCSAM was designed to “engage and educate public and private sector partners through events and initiatives to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity, provide them with tools and resources needed to stay safe online, and increase the resiliency of the nation in the event of a cyber incident.”

NCSAM is broken down into weekly themes, including online safety for consumers, securing business networks, looking ahead to the security of future technologies, careers in cybersecurity, and securing infrastructure.

And now Malwarebytes is doing its part. Each week on Labs, we’ll focus on a theme and provide helpful articles, useful tips, and valuable analysis so that you can increase awareness and spread the word. This week’s theme: simple steps to online safety.

Week 1 of NCSAM features the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. campaign, which provides easy, actionable advice for safe surfing. STOP: make sure security measures are in place. THINK: about the consequences of your actions and behaviors online. CONNECT: and enjoy the Internet.

Sounds pretty simple, right? But what exactly does it mean? Here’s our interpretation.

Make sure security measures are in place

It’s often mind-numbing to think about all the things you should and shouldn’t be doing online. Here’s where you use technology to do the heavy lifting. Make sure you’ve got the following equipped on your home computer:

  • Firewall

  • Cybersecurity program that includes technology to block malware, ransomware, adware, and other advanced threats

  • Password manager

  • Wifi secured with password (for mobile devices/streaming)

To learn more about how to proactively protect against various forms of cybercrime, take a look at a few of our articles:

With these in place, you can keep out a good chunk of the bad stuff, even if you “misbehave” online. However, human error still accounts for a lot of infections. So that’s why the next step is important.

Think about the consequences of your actions and behaviors online

Sure, you may have layers upon layers of security in place, and that’s going to help. But if you invite a criminal into your home, you’ve pretty much negated any security system you might have deployed. And that’s what happens when you ignore basic online hygiene.

To refresh your memory, there are a few things you need to keep an eye out for/be skeptical of:

  • Tech support scams (Microsoft won’t call you)

  • Phishing emails (is this really your bank asking you to update personal info?)

  • IRS phone calls/texts/emails (they mail you letters)

  • Online shopping on unsecured sites (look for the lock next to the URL)

We could go on, of course, but this general advice is good for all actions online: Does it seem too good to be true? If so, it probably is. Always treat information you encounter with a good sense of skepticism. And for more detailed advice, you can check out these Labs articles:

Connect and enjoy the Internet

If you’re securing your home computer with the proper technologies and making cybersecurity awareness a priority (and if you’ve read this far, that means you are), then you can safely connect to the Internet and enjoy all the cat videos you want to your heart’s content. Sadly, there’s no such thing as being 100 percent secure—online or in life—but you can breathe easier knowing you’re doing the right things and acting responsibly.

Now onward! Go forth, spread the word, and stay tuned for NSCAM’s Week 2 theme: cybersecurity in the workplace is everyone’s business.

Happy surfing!

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