It goes without saying, today’s connected world has forever changed the way people access information to simplify aspects of their daily lives. When I think back to a decade and half ago, I was a green network engineer who would pencil meetings in on a Palm V, shortly before getting paged to join a triage call for a customer outage, which required use of dial-up to get network connectivity from my home and the ability to login to networking devices over a VPN – how times have changed! Now everything can happen on one device that fits in my pocket, with 200x the bandwidth access speed and 15x the processing power than what I was using back then.
None of this is a surprise – most of us use these devices daily. For better or worse they have become part of the fabric of daily life. While our information and apps are contained in a cloud to offer accessibility anywhere, these devices give us access to our personal and professional rolodexes. They connect us to family members via voice and video, allow us to pay bills and transfer funds, change the temperature in our home to make sure the dog is comfortable, and make purchases that we’re too busy to do in person. However, these conveniences should also come with additional consideration.
It is important for users to educate themselves about best threat prevention practices as they learn about general Internet usage. The Internet can be an unforgiving place, meaning these activities must be learned in parallel.
Remaining diligent to protect yourself online applies to people of all ages. Just as we are always connected to work, today more youth are connected with their own devices, and more schools are using online resources to educate their students. iPads are replacing books, daily assignments are online, and homework is being submitted electronically. From corporations and startup businesses to schools and communities, every digital citizen within every network needs to educate themselves and obtain the knowledge and skills needed to safely navigate our always on, always connected world. Here are some basic principles that are generally well known. That said, it never hurts to consider these as you engage in online activity:
1. Always use secure access: Look for the “lock” logo on your browser, use a VPN if you have access to one. While mobile devices and app stores provide a basic level of safeguard to prevent access to a certain level of malicious content that exists in the PC world, be sure to install and only use trusted apps from known sources. Common sense goes a long way – always use AV and Anti-Malware services for PCs and laptops, keep the software and signatures up to date, and never trust a website with a certificate that is not current.
2. Responsible use and activity: Always be conscious of what you’re logging into and which device you’re using to do so. Be sure you’ve logged out of sessions, closed browsers and if you’re on a public device, clear the “cookies” and browser history when you’re done. Be wary of email content that requests personal information or passwords. A simple phone call to the entity can often prevent months of hurt that can result from giving unnecessary data out. Use strong passwords (caps, numbers, special character of more than 8 characters, and don’t re-use the same password or username for every account).
3. Proactive action if you’ve become the target of a breach: The safest device is one that isn’t connected to the Internet. There is no way to retrieve stolen information. That said, preventing additional information from being compromised can help reduce the collateral damage. Services can be purchased that offer ongoing personal identity monitoring, which can be invaluable if something goes wrong.
We are amidst an ongoing transformation. One in which the benefits can outweigh the challenges, but awareness, education and following basic best practices that are embedded within daily activities are critical to protecting oneself and reducing the possibility of a breach.