(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — October is recognized each year as Cybersecurity Awareness Month. The theme this year, “Do Your Part,” highlights the important role each of us plays in maintaining cybersecurity vigilance at a time when we are more connected than ever with our electronic devices.

People and companies get hacked when cybersecurity is not the most important element in our daily lives. The problem could be a software patch that did not get installed, or someone clicked on a link in an email they received. Sometimes, it is a password that was kept written on a piece of paper taped to the keyboard. Any one of these situations could be the catalyst for an attack.

A hack, once released in the wild, does not distinguish between us and big business. It just finds a device that is unprotected. The hackers then have an unprotected device, and an unsuspecting person, that they can exploit.

What would you do to get back twenty years’ worth of family photos on your hard drive? Can you afford to have all of your life savings drained out of your bank accounts?

Fight the phish

One way to stop this is to fight phishing attacks. Don’t open any unsolicited emails or text messages from people you do not know or organizations you do not routinely deal with. All of us know that we are not going to get rich if we try to help a prince recoup his money, but how many of us would click the link to check on a package delivery to our home or check on our online grocery order?

There has been a 37 percent increase this year alone in mobile phishing attacks. What can you do to protect yourself? Like your laptop, your mobile device requires updates and patches. Be aware of the apps that you download from Google Play or the App Store on your cell phone. Not all of them are benign; some contain malware designed to steal information. Don’t click on any link in an email or a text message if you do not know the person or business that sent it.

Unsecured public Wi-Fi

Who doesn’t like free? You go to your favorite coffee spot and login to their free Wi-Fi. While enjoying your favorite beverage, you log in to your social media or email – maybe you log in to your bank as well. However, how do you know the hotspot isn’t compromised by a would-be hacker? More than half of adults in the U.S. have had their personal information exposed to hackers, many of them through free Wi-Fi. There are dozens of online tutorials showing hackers how to compromise public Wi-Fi, so what is the best way to protect yourself against Wi-Fi threats? Don’t use free public Wi-Fi to shop online, log into your bank or access anything sensitive in nature; only visit web sites with “https” encryption when in public places; turn off the automatic Wi-Fi connectivity feature on your phone; and monitor your Bluetooth connection when in public places.

The future of connected devices or the ‘Internet of things’

Smart watches – you can check the time, answer a text message and make and receive phone calls. Or how about the refrigerator that tracks the usage of its contents and orders your groceries? Forgot to turn off your lights? No problem, just connect to the app on your phone and turn them off. All of these are examples of what’s called the “Internet of things.”

They make our lives easier in so many ways, but did you know that in the first half of 2021, 1.5 billion attacks occurred against smart devices, with attackers looking to steal data? The technology is new and typically not secured. What can you do to protect yourself? Install updates as soon as possible; always change the default preinstalled passwords; use complicated passwords; and reboot a device as soon as it starts acting strangely.

When everyone does their part to maintain cybersecurity, hackers have a more difficult target to strike. Be cyber smart – protect yourself, your friends and loved ones, and your organization from cyber attacks.