Sagar Raina, assistant professor of Information Technology at the Mount.
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, so it’s a great opportunity to evaluate your own preparedness, says Sagar Raina, assistant professor of Information Technology at Mount Saint Mary College.
“Cybersecurity is a global crisis,” Raina explains, adding that the United States is one of the most targeted countries in the world.
While breaches at Yahoo and Equifax made headlines this year, Raina notes that the majority of cyberattacks are directed at individuals.
“One of the weakest links that attackers try to exploit is people,” he says. “People have smart devices with them 24/7. They use them to pay bills, check emails, access social media sites, and more.” With this comes increased risk to one’s credit card numbers, passwords, and other personal information.
Sagar suggests following these six proactive tips to enhance cybersecurity at home and in the workplace.
1. Create strong passwords
When making a password, don’t use common words or personal information like your name or date of birth. These are easy for a hacker to guess. Instead, Raina suggests using at least eight characters, including a combination of letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols. Keep different passwords for different accounts, he adds, and change your passwords every three-four months. This will ensure that if someone has gotten your password, they won’t have prolonged access to your accounts.
2. Update the software on your devices
Update the security software, your web browser, and operating systems on your device regularly to defend against malware, says Raina. These updates also ensure that the latest bug fixes and security patches are installed on your system.
3. Know how to detect phishing scams
According to Raina, phishing scams often present victims with an alarming situation (suspended bank account, missed payments, etc.) and urge the user to take quick action to fix it. If an email looks suspicious, proceed with caution, says Raina. Do not respond to an email if you aren’t sure who sent it, even if details look familiar, and don’t click on any links or attachments. One dead giveaway that you’re dealing with a scam is grammar and spelling errors within the message, says Raina.
4. Protect personal info when using social media
Be careful what you post on social media, advises Raina. Don’t reveal personal information such as your address, the places you travel, your account numbers, etc. This can clue in criminals to opportunities for cyberattacks – or even leave you open to a robbery. Disabling the location settings on your social media is an easy first step to rectifying this.
5. Know the risks of using public Wi-Fi
It’s nice that the local coffee shop or airport offers free WI-FI, but using it might leave you open to cyberattacks. If you decide to use public Wi-Fi, confirm the name of the network with someone who works there. After you connect, don’t use it for sensitive activities that require you to enter passwords, bank details, or credit card information.
6. Protect sensitive transactions
Use your own device or a device you trust to carry out any sensitive online transactions including banking, e-commerce, and more. Raina says that if you’re using any websites for online shopping, banking, or government services, make sure the website address in your browser has the https protocol, meaning that it begins with https://
To combat growing cyber threats, colleges across the United States have introduced cybersecurity programs into their curriculum – including Mount Saint Mary College.Building on the existing concentration within the Information Technology major,the Mount’s Cybersecurity major will be offered by the college’s Division of Mathematics and Information Technologyinthe fall of 2020. The major provides theoretical and hands-on skills to identify and mitigate security vulnerabilities in software, operating systems, networks, and more. In addition, Cybersecurity will continue to be offered as a concentration for IT majors.
“As cyber threats and attacks are continuously increasing, there is a great demand for a skilled cybersecurity workforce,” says Raina. “The Cybersecurity major and concentration at the Mount are designed to meet these demands by producing highly-skilled cybersecurity professionals.”
A major or concentration in Cybersecurity at the Mount can lead to careers in technology, security software, defense, government, teaching, e-commerce, banking, finance, business, and more.