MADISON, WI — The increasing online connectivity of many aspects of our lives has made everything from paying bills to controlling the temperature in our homes easier to manage. However, it has also opened new ways for criminals to target victims. To help encourage people to be vigilant and to learn how they can act to protect themselves online, Gov. Scott Walker has declared October Cyber Security Awareness Month in Wisconsin.
“The internet has revolutionized the world we live in,” said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin's adjutant general and homeland security advisor. “However, it has also created many new threats to our personal and professional lives. Cyber security awareness is everyone’s responsibility.”
"Simply performing basic cyber hygiene on a continual basis can dramatically reduce your chances of intrusions and attacks from impacting you,” said David Cagigal, chief information officer with the Wisconsin Department of Administration's Division of Enterprise Technology.
To help improve your own cyber security, consider taking the following steps:
Beware of ransomware and malware — Malicious programs downloaded on to your computer and other internet-connected devices can give criminals easy access to sensitive information or allow them to lock you out of your system completely. Make sure you are routinely scanning for unauthorized programs and only open files from trusted sources. Be cautious about opening links sent to you in emails.
Learn about internet-based scams — Criminals will frequently use emails that appear to be from a known company. Known as “phishing,” this tactic often asks you to verify your account information by clicking a link in an email. Never access your accounts through a link sent in an unsolicited email. Always go to the company’s site by using an existing bookmark or manually entering the web address. When in doubt, throw it out!
Backup important information — From personal files on home computers to cherished memories captured with the camera on your phone – make sure you are taking steps to regularly copy that information to a cloud-based memory storage service or a portable hard drive. Having backups can be critical if a device becomes compromised through the actions of cyber criminals.
Protect social media accounts — Social media is an important tool that many people use to interact with the world. Those accounts can also be used by criminals, who try to gain access so they can reach out to your close friends and family be pretending to be you. Make sure you have strong passwords in place and be wary of who you accept friend requests from. Never post information online that could be used to access any of your online accounts, such as the answers to common security questions.
Keep your home cybersecure — If you have a home wireless network, make sure your router and other access points have a strong password. Be careful about who you allow to have access to your network. Video streaming devices, computers, and even many appliances are now utilizing wireless technologies. Regularly check to see which devices are connected to your network and whether they should have access.