National Cybersecurity Awareness Month: 5 Ways to Stay Safe Online

You probably weren’t aware that October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), with this collaborative celebration having been initially launched all the way back in 2004.

The brainchild of the National Cyber Security Alliance and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, NCSAM focuses on Internet security while highlighting the key dangers facing stakeholders in the near-term.

Government entities that access or manage sensitive information from the US Justice Department need to ensure that their processes and systems comply with CJIS policies for wireless networking, data encryption, and remote access – especially since phishing, malware, and hacked VPNs or credentials are the most common attack vectors used to hack into government networks.

This years’ celebration seems particularly relevant, and if you’re an avid frequenter of sites such as, you’ll probably know that the preventative measures used by cyber security professionals are becoming increasingly complex.

Given this and the growing importance of cyber security, here we present five ways that you can stay safe online:

  • Own your online presence and think longer term

Your online presence is an extension of your personality, perhaps your entire life, and people will be judged by their social media activity, Internet use and what they upload.

It’s therefore important to consider everything that you post online as many things could be taken out of context at a later date and referenced for an important life event, such as a job interview.

Like or not, people with access to this information will judge the things that you do during your everyday life. Is it really worth sharing a moment of stupidity online, something that you may later regret, that could harm your chances of that dream job?

  • Be careful not to share all of your information on social media

When sharing data online, you should also consider how else this information could harm you.

If your Facebook profile contains your name, address and date of birth, for example, then you’re potentially setting yourself up to be the victim of online fraud.

Be sure to adjust your privacy settings so that only people you know can view this information, and be wary of links in messages that you are sent. It could be a malicious link with a virus that can steal your private information.

  • Don’t use the same password for everything!

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably got one password that you think is as difficult to decipher as the enigma. The issue is that this is rarely the case, however, making it particularly easy for sophisticated hackers to get your dog’s name, or the name of the first street you lived on.

More to the point, the people that are going to steal your information online aren’t going to carry out actual surveillance on you to retrieve that information. It’s far simpler than that. Hackers will target the vulnerable websites you use that aren’t as well protected, which means that if you use the same password for every site then they’ll have access to everything (including the websites you use that are secure.)

  • Regularly update your software

Whether you use Windows or Mac, your computer has a built-in operating system which includes software that controls and organises all of your hardware and programs.

Your computer will be better protected against viruses if you keep this operating system updated. The system will send you notifications when new updates are available, so be sure to follow these and download them when necessary. You can also update your system manually.

You can also buy a package from a reputable anti-virus provider, such as McAfee or Norton, which will install security software on your computer and screen for viruses regularly. You can download McAfee or Norton from the internet or if you’re a beginner, visit a computer retailer for advice.

  • Protect your wireless network

In addition to protecting your computer you also need to protect your wireless router, as if it isn’t secure, people nearby will be able to access it. It’s therefore best to set up your network with a password, also known as a ‘wireless ‘key’.

The instructions that came with your router will help you set up a password, or it may have already come with one, in which case keep this safe. Once your network is secured by a password, users will be simply prompted to enter it when they try to access the network for the first time. If you’ve given it to friends and family you trust, it will then automatically log them in next time they are in range.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.