Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Theresa Payton, a cyber security expert on America Now News Magazine who manages Fortalice®, LLC, a security consulting company. Ms. Payton was chief information officer at the White House from May 2006 to September 2008.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, 10 million people will be a victim of identity theft every year. Add to that, the Department of Homeland Security recently reported that they are seeing a new type of attack roughly every 90 seconds. And, in a recent study by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), less than half of the people polled said they feel safe from cyber threats and cybercrime.
I hear from businesses and consumers every day that they are not sure what to focus on when it comes to Internet safety. The best way to be an online hero is to take on the role of “neighborhood” crime fighter. In the physical world, the term safety covers anything from how to cross the street to home invasions. In the digital world, the concerns are not much different. We need to share, engage, and inform each other on how the bad intentions of some cyber criminals take advantage of weak points that can put you and your loved ones at risk.
I recently co-authored a book to help businesses and families have fun and be safer online called "Are You Naked Online? Protecting Your Internet Identity?" The answer is, "yes!" We are all “naked” online but we can take steps, most easy and free, to regain our privacy and protect ourselves from cybercrime and cyber creeps.
Five tips for Internet safety:
- Talk about it! Talk with your kids, families, neighbors, co-workers, and employees. The best weapon against most cyber attacks is by being aware of the online risks and sharing prevention methods with one another.
- Trust but Verify: Assume that most emails and posts on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter that sound like a sweet deal are most often scams. Try your best to avoid clicking on links or opening attachments through these channels.
- Updated Settings: Keep those browsers, operating systems, virus protection, software products and privacy settings up to date.
- Grandma Rule: Don’t share anything online you wouldn’t share with your grandma. And if you think you want to use an interjection online, especially the four-letter kind, think twice because digital is forever.
- Bad Guy Rule: If a bad guy were stalking you, would you want him to know that piece of identifiable information? If not, don't post it online.
Education is a critical step in cyber threat detection and protection. Companies such as Microsoft offer a variety of educational materials to help techie and non-techie types alike equip themselves with the knowledge necessary to maintain healthy digital citizenship.