Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Five Proverbs to Live By

Editor’s Note: October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. UMUC will be sharing tips, best practices and other information weekly throughout the month to help you protect your data and personal information and become more aware of cybersecurity issues in our daily lives. Week 1 featured “Hack” to School, the top eight tips for students’ safety when using smartphones, PCs and social media.  For this Week 2 edition, Valerie King, UMUC’s Program Chair and Collegiate Associate Professor for Cybersecurity Management and Policy (CSIA) shares strategies for:

Surviving in Cyber SpaceFive Proverbs to Live By

Remember all those sayings and proverbs we learned growing up―sayings that included little nuggets of advice about staying safe, keeping warm and generally staying out of trouble? The sayings we use to guide our children in the real world also can be applied to helping us all steer away from trouble on the Internet. You can stay safe in cyberspace by paying attention to the following five common proverbs and their associated modern-day Internet applications.

Don’t take candy from strangers. Downloads from unknown sources are like “candy.” They might be “sweet” and “tasty” but, over the long run, downloading applications or files from unknown and untrusted sources can give our phones, our tablets and our PCs a bad case of indigestion―if not worse. Find and use only trustworthy sources. Double-check a source’s reputation before you even look at its catalogs and offerings of applications, videos, music, and so forth.

If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you jump too? Phishing emails depend upon social pressures to “click on this link.” Designers carefully craft those emails using basic principles of human psychology to get you to click. Make yourself resistant to pressures from unknown, or even known individuals. If you want to know what’s behind a link, copy the URL and paste it into a search engine. Use software that prescreens downloads and blocks intrusion attempts.

Walls have ears. On the Internet, everything can be overheard … unless it’s encrypted. Check for the SSL Lock in your browser window when visiting websites, especially if you are filling in a form that asks for your credit card or personally-identifying information. Don’t make it easy for anyone to “hear” what you’re saying when you talk to a website.

Clean up your own mess. If your computer runs slowly, has lots of unexpected pop-up windows or otherwise shows unexpected behavior, run a manual scan using your anti-virus software. A corollary to this is “clean as you go.” Always have your anti-virus software running real-time scans. Don’t turn it off!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Call your help desk at work, or take your home computer in for service if you think you have a malware infection―or if someone in your household was visiting really questionable websites.

Here’s one final bonus proverb to remember and act upon:

If it is to be, it must start with me. Be responsible. Be careful. And don’t forget to enjoy the wonder of the Internet―safely!

By Valerie King, UMUC’s Program Chair and Collegiate Associate Professor for Cybersecurity Management and Policy (CSIA)