Cyber Security Overload

Cybersecurity OverloadThe other day I was sitting in front of a client discussing the influx of cyber-threats we face these days. My intentions were good, but clearly my delivery was not. I watched her facial expressions and body language go from interested, to concerned, to numb. Then I heard that familiar rhetorical question/exclamation that always tells me I've gone too far: "What am I supposed to do, go live under a rock?!?"

I spend my days selling IT security solutions to small and mid-sized businesses here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. My first approach was to learn about all the bad, horrible, scary things that could possibly happen to any of my clients, and then vomit that information all over them hoping they would hand over their check book with a bunch of signed blank checks. It didn't take me long to realize that fear-mongering wasn't my best strategy. Still, it can be hard to find the balance between proper education and overload.

So here are 5 things we can all do today to help fight cybercrime in our corner of the universe:

  1. Software Updates – make sure that every program you run is up to date. That means Windows, Android, iOS, and all the programs/apps that you've downloaded and installed. Keep it simple: remove unused programs once a month. That way there's less to update.
  2. Anti-virus AND Anti-malware – Make sure you are protected, and the software is up to date. If you have any questions, give us a call.
  3. Passwords – Ya, we've all heard about not using the same password everywhere, and making them so complex we can never possibly remember them. Right! Here's a trick. Start with your favorite password; the one you are already using. Just make sure it has some special characters in it. Now, modify that password slightly for each website or program you use. For example, on your Gmail account, add "bigG" to the end of your memorized password. Then add the current month and year to the end of your password in this format: MMYY. Finally, every few months, update your password with that month's date, again in this format: MMYY. Here's how it works – We start with "Bla#b!@H" (whatever you are using now). Gmail's password becomes "Bla#b!@HbigG0316". Three months later, update it to "Bla#b!@HbigG0616". Now you have a crazy, long, complex password that is different for every site and you can actually memorize it. The only trick is keeping track of the dates, but if you try to change them all at the same time you'll save some aggravation. Still too much work? Try a password vault like LastPass, or even a password-protected Excel spreadsheet.
  4. Free WiFi – Be very careful when using public, free WiFi hotspots. I cannot emphasize this enough. Everything that leaves your device can be read by your diabolical, yet innocent-looking neighbor with basic hacking skills. You know, the skills you can pick up in a few minutes with a basic google search. No email, no banking, no company documents. If you must, then talk to us about encryption first.
  5. You Get What You Pay For – If it's free, ask yourself, "Why?" You know all those cute, exciting, useful, free apps you download to your phone or workstation? Do you have any idea how much work goes into creating those apps? As a hobbyist-programmer, I can tell you it's horrendous. So why do they give them away? For the ads? Ya, partly. But even that's not enough. In most cases, either they are gathering personal information and selling it, or they are infected with viruses. Or both. There is no such thing as free. So be very careful what you download!

In writing this, I realized that even my 5 simple tips still may not feel so simple. The key is to stay educated, and just start somewhere. Pick just one of these tips and get serious about it today. Once you have mastered that one, grab another. Cybercriminals go after low-hanging fruit; the people who bury their heads in the sand and pretend the world is full of butterflies and rainbows. I wish it were so, but it's not. This world is filled with both good and bad.

If you prefer to focus on the good, feel free to hire us to take care of the bad guys. It's what we do every single day!

Cybercrime banner