October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month — as good a time as any to remind people that their cyber security hygiene doesn’t just affect them, but everyone around them. And in the globally connected world we live in, that literally is everyone.
Your cyber hygiene affects others
It’s not unlike public health. One of the reasons health officials urge almost everyone to get a flu shot is because people who are infected are more likely to infect others. And the same is true for cyber security. Infected devices have a way of infecting other devices and compromised systems can make everyone vulnerable. So your cyber hygiene isn’t just about protecting you, it’s about protecting all of us.
Bots or zombie networks are just one example. Bad guys look for vulnerable machines to infect and enlist them into a zombie army that infects other machines, thus greatly amplifying their ability to reach millions of users.
Even bad social networking and email security can be contagious. If your accounts are insecure, it makes it easier for others to go online as you and spread infections or social engineering attacks designed to steal data or money.
What’s in it for you?
But forget altruism for a moment. Having an insecure machine or password can be personally devastating. I’ll spare you the scare tactics, you’ve probably heard them before — but I will remind you that an intrusion into any of your accounts or devices can escalate into a full-scale attack on your financial and reputational well-being.
Even something as basic as inadvertently sending out spam, can be embarrassing, but there is also the risk of identity theft and financial crime that can leave you with an empty bank account.
Cyber security is a shared responsibility. Internet companies and brick and mortar merchants can do their part by shoring up the security of their networks and payment systems. Government can educate the pubic and enforce anti-cyber crime laws. Businesses can make sure that they have strong security processes in place, including making sure their employees use strong passwords and everyone can play an important role by securing our devices and being sure that our passwords are strong and unique. Scroll down for our slide show on password security.
And it’s not just for adult. Just as we teach our kids to lock their bicycles, parents and teachers need to remind them to password-protect their phones and other devices. And kids need to know that some things in life need to be kept secret. Passing on your passwords is not a way of proving that you’re a good friend. If a friend asks for a password you can really be a good friend by reminding them that it’s never a good idea.
Stop. Think. Connect.
The organizations behind National Cyber Security Month remind people to Stop. Think. Connect.
STOP: Before you use the Internet, take time to understand the risks and learn how to spot potential problems.
THINK: Take a moment to be certain the path ahead is clear. Watch for warning signs and consider how your actions online could impact your safety, or your family’s.
CONNECT: Enjoy the Internet with greater confidence, knowing you’ve taken the right steps to safeguard yourself and your computer (and other devices).
Slideshow on password security