WIESBADEN, Germany -- October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and marks the kickoff of the yearlong Army Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign. The Army campaign is designed to increase readiness through improving awareness of cyber threats and incidents as well as their impact to Army missions. The Cybersecurity Awareness efforts also highlight how Soldiers and Civilians need to respond in order to safeguard the Army.
"We are here in a theater where people want to find out information from us. We need to make sure we protect it, not just at work, but at home and while traveling," said Nic Hall, 2nd Theater Signal Brigade information systems security manager.
Hall provides some tips for users to stay safe online at home and while traveling away from the workplace.
1. Know your hardware and software. It's important to understand the equipment and programs you are using, including the capabilities and limitations, and data use policies.
"Make sure you read up on the technology you have -- don't just open up a brand new machine and think it's ready to go," Hall said.
He recommends to always read the policies and terms of service to understand what personal information each app or program is requesting to access and how they intend to use it.
2. Keep your software and operating system up to date. Companies routinely release security patches and bug fixes for their software. Installing these updates should provide your computer or smartphone with the most secure and up-to-date versions of programs.
"Read the security updates that are sent out, continue to update your computer, and look for the more in-depth ways of securing your system," Hall recommends.
Authorized Department of Defense users can download anti-virus and anti-spyware software free for home use. For more information about this program visit https://www.disa.mil/Cybersecurity/Network-Defense/Antivirus/Home-Use.
3. Virtual Private Network. Users need a VPN account when using government computers or networks for approved telework or while traveling. Hall recommends using a VPN for personal use as well, especially when connecting to open access, or public, WiFi spots such as found at airports, hotels or cafes.
"When there's free WiFi, it's great to connect to it, but if you're not on a secured connection using a VPN to encrypt your traffic, then you're at risk for your information being stolen," Hall said.
A VPN creates a secure tunnel from your device to the destination site, encrypting and protecting your data traveling in the middle. Before signing up, Hall recommends reading the terms of service to understand how a VPN provider uses your information and if they sell it to a third party or not.
4. Don't overshare. The social media landscape is vast with an array of apps and programs that allow users to share photos, videos and other personal information.
"The biggest thing for social media, from my perspective, is don't overshare," Hall said.
He encourages people to use and enjoy social media responsibly, but to remember TMI is not OK. For example, posting your job title, location, unit and security clearance information on LinkedIn might be great for networking and job hunting, but it could also make you a target. Similarly, Hall said it's not a good idea to post ahead of time that you will be going on vacation as this would be potentially valuable information for thieves who want to break in to your home.
"No matter what you post, even if you restrict it to certain people, it's always going to be accessible on the internet. You can never completely erase what you post," Hall said.
5. Turn off geotagging. When geotagging is enabled in popular social media apps such as Snapchat, then anyone can track your location in real time.
"You allow a criminal to footprint your movement by giving them all this open information for free," Hall said.
Turning off geotagging keeps your location private, protecting you while you travel and preventing anyone from building a profile of your frequently visited places, including home, work, children's school or favorite restaurants. Consult the FAQ section within each app or program for information on how to turn off geotagging.
For more information contact your unit information assurance, cybersecurity division, or S-6/G-6 section.
Editor's note: This is the second in a three-part series on Cybersecurity Awareness Month best practices for Army computer and network users in Europe.
2nd Theater Signal Brigade conducts Department of Defense Information Network operations to enable mission command in support of U.S. Army, Joint and multinational operations throughout the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of operation.