Downers Grove, Ill. – Consumers can raise their comfort level about online safety by staying vigilant about potential threats and by taking common-sense steps to strengthen their cyber defenses, according to three cybersecurity experts from the IT Security Community of CompTIA, the world’s leading technology association.
In conjunction with the 15th Annual National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, CompTIA asked some of its members who are leaders in the cybersecurity field for advice on what consumers can do to make their home a haven for online safety. Here are three tips.
1. It Can Happen to You.
“Individual consumers are absolutely a target of hackers and cybercriminals,” said Victor Johnston, CEO of Inspired Business Innovations of Fayetteville, N.C. “Credit card numbers are easy to sell and in high demand. With the advent of crypto-currency, attackers can ransom your own files back to you or use your card for cash advances on crypto-currency. There’s also the risk of blackmail and extortion using illegally obtained digital content.”
“Most consumers are aware that hackers are getting more creative,” said Kevin Rubin, president and chief operating officer at Stratosphere Networks, a Chicago-based multifaceted IT managed service provider. “However, they have trouble staying ahead of the new threats that emerge daily and struggle to keep track of what not to do.”
One of the biggest threats continues to be the improper handling of email, according to Rubin.
“A focus on email should be a top priority for businesses and consumers alike,” he said. “Should you upload and download attachments, click on links, or complete transactions over email without verbally verifying? Failure to do so can easily open the door to hackers, creating the potential for your personal information to land in the hands of others.”
2. Stay Current with Software Updates and Patches.
“Auto-updating is much more common on ‘regular’ computing devices, such as smart phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops,” said Lysa Myers, security researcher with ESET®, a developer of industry-leading IT security software and services for businesses and consumers worldwide. “But it’s unlikely you’ll see a notification for an available update on Internet of Things connected devices.
“Be sure to check regularly for software updates on your router, your car, any fitness devices you might have, and any other devices around your home that connect to the Internet or to computers and mobile devices, most often by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth,” Myers advised.
Rubin added that web browsers are building intelligence into their search engines by letting you know if a site is malicious or not. “Don’t disregard these warnings,” he said.
Johnston recommended that consumers have a continuity and recovery plan in place in the event of an incident where their information is compromised; or if they’re a victim of a mechanical failure and lose their most important data.
3. Do Your Homework.
Consumers should proceed with a “buyer beware” mindset before buying a new connected device, according to Myers.
“It’s a good idea to do a little research first,” she said. “There are a variety of ways to see if a vendor or product has known privacy or security issues. You can search for vendors and specific products to see if they have known vulnerabilities and whether they’ve been patched.”
Another option is to visit the Better Business Bureau site to see if other customers have reported issues, or if there are government actions against the company. You can also use your favorite search engine to look for the product or vendor name with the word “recall” in the search to see if there are any recalls under way.
CompTIA is committed to raising awareness about the critical importance of cybersecurity; to build competencies and skills among cybersecurity professionals around the world; and to attract new candidates into the cybersecurity workforce.
The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is a leading voice and advocate for the $4.8 trillion global information technology ecosystem; and the more than 35 million industry and tech professionals who design, implement, manage, and safeguard the technology that powers the world’s economy. Through education, training, certifications, advocacy, philanthropy, and market research, CompTIA is the hub for advancing the tech industry and its workforce. Visit www.comptia.org to learn more.