National Cyber-Security Awareness Month

October is National Cyber-Security Awareness Month. So now would be a great time to get off your butt and implement some of the security tips that I’ve recommended over the years! If you think you’re in pretty good shape, then maybe this would be a good time to help your loved ones get secure.

Cyber-Security Awareness Month

Here are my top three safety tips…

#1 Back Up Your Stuff

The number one thing you can do to protect your stuff is to make regular backups. This includes family photos, important documents, home movies, contacts (address book), and any other items that would be impossible to replace or very costly to recreate. Experts recommend having two backups – usually one local (like on an external backup drive) and one offsite (which today usually means in ‘the cloud’).

For local backups, I recommend using Apple’s wonderful Time Machine tool or Microsoft’s built-in Windows Backup & Restore function. For cloud backups, I personally prefer Backblaze – you simply sign up for the service ($60/yr) and install their app. The app will make constant, secure backups of your important files to their servers.

#2 Stay Up To Date

All software has bugs and new vulnerabilities are discovered all the time. Software makers issue patches for these bugs on a regular basis and you need to be sure you’re getting them installed. This includes (at a minimum) your desktops, laptops, smart phones and tablets. (You should also look for updates for your router, TV, and other IoT devices.) The easiest solution is just to enable automatic updates:

#3 Secure Your Online Accounts

Okay, this is actually two tips rolled into one. First, you simply must use strong, unique passwords for all of your online accounts – at least the important ones. This includes financial, medical, social media and email accounts. There’s really no good way for a human to do this, so you’re going to need help: specifically, a password manager. I personally prefer LastPass, but you can also check out DashLane, 1Password and KeePass.

But isn’t it dangerous to put all your eggs in one basket? What if your password vault is hacked? These products are designed to be very secure, but you should still have a second layer of defense: two-factor authentication (2FA). This mechanism requires a special PIN code in addition to your password in order to access your account/vault. The PIN code is either sent to your phone via text message or (better yet) generated using a special smartphone app. With this protection, not only would the bad guys need to somehow hack or bypass your password, but they would also need to have possession of your smart phone. I personally prefer the Authy app for this.

This mechanism can be used on many websites, not just for your password vault. Search for “two-factor” or “mult-factor” authentication options on all your important websites. This site can help you find the info.

Going Further

There are many other simple, mostly free things you can do to improve your computer and device security. You can find links to helpful sites on my Resources page and you can get few more tips by signing up for my newsletter. But of course the whole point of my book was to collect every tip I could think of all in one place, with step-by-step instructions and pictures.

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