Cybersecurity: Protect Your Information

New devices with internet capabilities are becoming increasingly popular. We are no longer limited to smartphones, personal computers and tablets. The list of devices that directly or indirectly connect to the internet creating the “Internet of Things” (IoT) is now much more expansive including watches, fitness bands, children’s stuffed animals, security devices (Ring Cameras) and electrical home devices. We have become dependent on these devices to make our lives more comfortable and convenient, but we should learn to protect ourselves from hackers. These out of the box devices are often weak on security measures and become targets for hackers at all levels of skill and ability.

The Houston Regional Intelligence Service Center (HRISC) offers the below ‘industry standard’ suggestions, courtesy of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), to make your devices more secure:
Use Strong Passwords – These are often the only wall of security between your personal information and malicious actors. Some devices are configured (from the manufacturer) with default usernames and passwords to ease the set up process. Frequently, a simple online search will provide these defaults. These should be changed as soon as possible, with STRONG passwords replacing those defaults. Strong passwords typically have over 9 characters and employ a ‘passphrase’ combing UPPER and lower case letters, with numbers and special characters (e.g. !@#$%^&*) included.
Evaluate your security settings – Usually the device will have features or settings to alter functionality or convenience in use. Examine these functions and convenience to see if you need them for your use all the time, part of the time or not needed.
Make sure the software and firmware are up-to-date – In the time that a device is made, sent to market and purchased by a consumer, it is probable that the controlling/accessing software has an update or a ‘patch.’ Check for these updates frequently as you are likely to have increased performance and security with each update.
Connect with care – There are billions of wired and wireless connection points to the internet. Some more secure than others. These connection points are often used by cyber attackers to access your device. Before you connect to that wireless (Wi-Fi) connection at the mall, consider if you really need to or not, and if you do, for how long.
Please use the links below for additional information and tips on cybersecurity.
• Password safety – https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips/ST04-002
• Security settings – https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips/ST04-003
• Connect carefully (securing your home network) – https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips/ST15-002