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Cybersecurity Awareness Month

“Many data breaches can be traced back to a single security vulnerability, phishing attempt, or instance of accidental exposure,” states the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). With October being National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, it’s a good time to take inventory of the security practices in your work environments, including securing your endpoints. Here is a refresher with industry-wide best practices for organizations and employees to #BeCyberSmart.

“Cybersecurity requires the vigilance of everyone to keep data, customers, and capital safe and secure,” according to the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). It offers these five practical tips:

1. Treat business information as personal information. Business information typically includes a mix of personal and proprietary data. While you may think of trade secrets and company credit accounts, it also includes employee personally identifiable information (PII) through tax forms and payroll accounts. Do not share PII with unknown parties or over unsecured networks.

2. Don’t make passwords easy to guess. Avoid using passwords that can be easily guessed. Do not create passwords that contain commonly used phrases (“password”, “secure”, “123”), personally identifiable information, and publicly available information (name, DOB, etc).

3. Be up to date. Keep software updated to the latest version available. Enable automatic updates to avoid delays and set your security software to run regular scans.

4. Social media is part of the fraud toolset. By searching Google and scanning your organization’s social media sites, cybercriminals can gather information about your partners and vendors, as well as human resources and finance departments. Employees should avoid oversharing on social media and should not conduct official business, exchange payment, or share PII on social media platforms.

5. It only takes one time. Many data breaches can be traced back to a single security vulnerability, phishing attempt, or instance of accidental exposure. Be wary of unusual sources, do not click on unknown links, and delete suspicious messages immediately.

Be Aware of the Latest Phishing Scams

We know that business email compromise (BEC) and phishing scams are a common form of cybercrime — with the goal to trick people into handing over money or credentials or sensitive information. A ZDNet article states that “often these phishing attacks will take the form of a phony email sent in the name of a real exec or supplier asking the victim to transfer funds as a matter of urgency to secure a business deal or contract.” This year saw a 60% increase of phishing scams, according to ZeroFox.

One of the latest scams is a text message claiming that a package is ready to pick up. The Federal Trade Commission warns that this scam has hit nationwide, with text messages claiming to be from the United States Postal Service or other shipment companies. It offers information on how to recognize and avoid phishing scams.

Additionally, CISA recommends these seven tips for getting a handle on phishing:

1. Play hard to get with strangers. Links in email and online posts are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If you’re unsure who an email is from — even if the details appear accurate — do not respond, and do not click on any links or attachments found in that email. Be cautious of generic greetings such as “Hello Bank Customer,” as these are often signs of phishing attempts. If you are concerned about the legitimacy of an email, reach out to your designated security or IT support team.

2. Think before you act. Be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately. Many phishing emails attempt to create a sense of urgency, causing the recipient to fear their account or information is in jeopardy. If you receive a suspicious email that appears to be from someone you know, reach out to that person directly on a separate secure platform. If the email comes from an organization but still looks “phishy,” reach out to them via customer service to verify the communication.

3. Protect your personal information. If someone contacting you provides key details from your life — your job title, multiple email addresses, full name, and more — you could be a target of a direct spear-phishing attack. Cyber criminals can also use social engineering with these details to try to manipulate you into skipping normal security protocols.

4. Be wary of hyperlinks. Avoid clicking on hyperlinks in emails and hover over links to verify authenticity. Also ensure that URLs begin with “https.” The “s” indicates encryption is enabled to protect users’ information.

5. Double your login protection. Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) to ensure that the only person who has access to your account is you. Use it for email, banking, social media, and any other service that requires logging in. If MFA is an option, enable it by using a trusted mobile device, such as your smartphone, an authenticator app, or a secure token — a small physical device that can hook onto your key ring.

6. Shake up your password protocol. According to NIST guidance, you should consider using the longest password or passphrase permissible. Get creative and customize your standard password for different sites, which can prevent cyber criminals from gaining access to these accounts and protect you in the event of a breach. Use password managers to generate and remember different, complex passwords for each of your accounts.

7. Install and update anti-virus software. Make sure all of your computers, devices, phones, and tablets are equipped with regularly updated antivirus software, firewalls, email filters, and anti-spyware.

What are some security best practices you have put into place since the pandemic?

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