With all of the recent news and reports of high-profile data breaches, it’s not surprising that most Canadians are feeling more and more vulnerable to cyber threats online.
These days, simply opening an email from an unknown source or visiting a sketchy website can leave one open to a malware or virus attack, leading to loss of personal information or finances.
The cyber threat landscape is constantly evolving in our technology-filled world, which makes protecting your personal data and staying safe online absolutely crucial. It may seem that the list of potential threats are endless and many of the latest cyber attacks are hitting closer to home than ever before. Nowadays, everyone is at risk.
That is why in 2004, National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) was developed in the US as a way for people to stay secure online. It was quickly adopted as Cyber Security Awareness Month (CSAM) in Canada, and as European Cyber Security Month (ECSM) in many countries in the European Union.
The primary goal of Cyber Security Awareness month is to educate people and get them to think about the importance of online security, how their online activities and practices can impact themselves and others. The secondary goal is to provide advice and effective measures that users can implement to protect themselves from harm, such as financial loss or identity theft.
In support of CSAM, the Canadian government has published their list of 10 security best-practices for you to review. It is listed below and the full article can be found here.
1. Protect Your Identity
Never re-use passwords. Create new usernames (if possible) and passwords for every account. Make sure they’re strong and difficult to guess by using numbers, case-sensitive letters and characters. Change your passwords regularly.
2. Turn on Your Firewall
This is your first line of defence. Find out if your computer operating system has a built-in firewall and activate it. Firewalls can block connections to unknown or phishing sites and can prevent access to your computer.
3. Use an Anti-virus Software
This is a no-brainer. Purchase and install an anti-virus and/or anti-malware software to keep your computer from infections. Configure it to automatically receive new virus definition updates and schedule a weekly scan of your drives.
4. Block Spyware Attacks
Adding an anti-spyware software will prevent spyware from installing on your computer and monitoring your online activities. It is a form of malware that can log your keystrokes, such as when you are entering your login credentials. Often times, it is used to gather your personal information and send it to advertisers, data firms or other external users.
5. Install the Latest Operating System Updates
Always make sure your operating system and applications are up-to-date with the latest patches. Configure your system to automatically download and install them or at least notify you when they are available so that you can manually install them.
6. Back up Your Files
Protect all of your important files regularly by backing them up on external drives or removable media. Store them in a safe place in a different location if possible.
7. Protect Your Wireless Network
Configure your Wi-Fi network using the highest security and encryption available on your wireless router. If you’re unsure how to do this, ask for expert advice from where you purchased the hardware.
8. Delete Emails From Unknown Senders
If you don’t know the sender, it’s best not to open emails from them. Never open any attachments or follow any links included in the email body. Just delete the emails.
9. Surf the Web Safely
If you must enter personal information such as your name, address, phone number or financial information, only do so from your secured home network. Never do your online banking or shop from untrusted, insecure networks like your local coffee shop, etc.
Whenever you do need to enter personal or financial information online, make certain that the website is legitimate and secure (using HTTPS via an SSL certificate).
10. Get Expert Help
If you suspect or discover a computer crime, identity theft or a phishing scam, etc., call your local authorities to report it.
(The above tips are courtesy of Public Safety Canada)
Since 2009, CSAM has included a different theme for each year, and beginning in 2011, weekly themes were introduced.
As with previous years, a different weekly theme highlighting the various aspects of cyber security has been organized. Here are this year’s campaign themes:
Week 1: How Cyber Threats Work
(October 1-6, 2019)
What is a cyber threat? It is simply an activity that is intended to compromise the security of an information system such as an organization’s computer network, website or social media. The goal of of these types of cyber attacks is to alter the availability, integrity or the confidentiality of a system and the its information.
Understanding how cyber threats work, who the cyber threat actors are and their motivations is the first step in protecting yourself and your organization.
Week 2: How Cyber Threats Affect You
(October 7-13, 2019)
As more and more people put their personal information online, they become increasingly vulnerable to cyber threats and attacks. The more internet-connected devices you have (computers, TVs, home appliances, etc.), the higher exposure to possible threats.
Even though the available tools and techniques for hackers and cyber criminals continue to increase, the tools and techniques at the disposal of organizations, businesses and individuals allow them to protect against such attempts.
Week 3: How to Protect Yourself Online
(October 14-20, 2019)
It is a common misconception that you need to have expertise and highly advanced tools to protect yourself from cyber threats. The truth is, everyone can exercise simple and common sense practices to stay secure from many of these threats.
Simple behaviourial changes to your online practices, when implemented, can be very effective at protecting yourself online.
Week 4: How to Protect Your Small Business
(October 21-27, 2019)
The Internet is an indispensable tool for most small and medium businesses to succeed in today’s digital economy. Being online lets you to reach new and current customers and allows your business to grow.
You may think that cyber criminals only target larger businesses and well-known corporations, but in reality, they are now actively targeting smaller businesses because hackers believe their computer systems are easier to access and more vulnerable.
Whether your business is small, medium or large, you owe it to yourself and your customers to make cyber security a top priority.
Week 5: How We Can Work Together
(October 28-31, 2019)
Cyber defence is a shared responsibility. From the government, institutions, private and public sectors, businesses in all industries and individuals must all work together to strengthen Canada’s cyber security.
Our systems hold valuable information that is critical to our health, economy and society. They are targeted by hackers and cyber criminals every day. The security of these systems must be prioritized.