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Take Basic Steps to Protect Yourself Online

This is the first of a series of guest blogs Connected Nation will be posting from CN alumni Dr. Michael Ramage. This series will focus on various facets of cybersecurity and things you can do to help protect your information in a connected world.

Bowing Green, Ky (April 15, 2020) - All internet users face security risks. For some, those risks paralyze individuals, preventing them from taking advantage of the benefits of education, healthcare, entertainment, and countless other resources available online. For other new broadband users trying to navigate the internet during this unprecedented time, those dangers seem to be lurking behind every click. However, the vast majority of the concern is misguided and could be addressed by taking a few necessary steps.

First, it is essential to accept that real threats do exist, such as ransomware and sophisticated phishing emails. Every internet user faces threats. However, those same threats exist for everyone regardless of whether you have adopted broadband. Your information is out there if you have medical insurance, a credit card, a bank account, or a loan.

While you cannot eliminate your risk completely, you can significantly reduce it by using common sense. For example, do you think it would be easier for a thief to break into a house with a locked door or unlocked door? That is why most people lock their houses when they aren’t home. If we have those practices with our physical property, then why don’t we use that same common sense with our online presence.

While there are dozens of things people could do to protect themselves better online, I would recommend a few initial steps for residential users:

  1. Use strong passwords. Passwords should be hard to guess and kept private. They should be long, even 10 characters or longer, and not re-used on multiple websites.

  2. Use two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication may be a new concept and may even sound complicated, but it is merely using two means of authentication. For example, it may be something you have (phone) and something you know (password). Most email accounts, like Gmail, can implement two-factor authentication for free. It is something that is easy to do and substantially increases the security of your account.

  3. Don’t click the link. One of the most likely avenues for a computer to be compromised today is by clicking a link in an email or from an infected email. No matter if you think the email is coming from a trustworthy source, it is best practice to never click on the link.

  4. Anti-virus software.Having a clean computer will be vital to a secure system and a secure network. Several anti-virus software options are available, some at no cost. Whichever option you chose, ensure it provides real-time monitoring.

  5. Keep software up-to-date. Most software is updated regularly by the developers as they identify problems and vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities are openings for bad actors to break into your computer. It is recommended to keep software updated or turn on automatic updates for your operating system.

Michael Ramage Small 201x300Over the coming months, we will explore each of these topics in more detail and additional tips for protecting yourself online, along with examining the emerging threats.

If you have additional questions, please reach out to Dr. Ramage at mramage@murraystate.eduor 270-809-3987. You can also reach out to Wes Kerr, Director; Community Solutions, at wkerr@connectednation.orgor 877-846-7710.