On Thursday, October 19, Carousel will be hosting its third annual AlwaysOn Technology Symposium (AOTS), a one-day event that helps IT leaders better educate and teach their business about existing and imminent trends so the business can hear about them from IT first. Throughout the event, speakers dive deep into mega trends that are impacting how we manage IT.

Leading a cybersecurity panel in the morning at AOTS and in celebration of October being National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, I’m sharing some top tips to keeping personal and business data safe in the tumultuous world of cyber security.

As technology plays a more significant role in our lives, its complexity also grows exponentially. Every day we are hit with new best practices and directions on what you should or should not be doing. With this rapid growth cycle, keeping up with sound security recommendations can feel extremely daunting. While the particulars of what should be done to stay secure may constantly change, there are fundamental actions we can all take to protect ourselves and our businesses.

Regardless of what technology you are using or where you are using it, I recommend the following four key steps to stay secure:

Focus on You

Technology alone will never be able to fully protect you. Cyber criminals have learned that the easiest way to bypass even the most advanced security systems is by attacking the end user. If they’re targeting your personal information, passwords, credit card info etc., the least amount of effort for them is to trick you into giving them this information.

For instance, one popular tactic is to call and pretend to be tech support, claiming that your computer is infected. Or, they will send you an email explaining your package could not be delivered and ask you to click on a link to confirm your mailing address.

At the end of the day, the greatest protection against attackers is you. By always being suspicious (even when you receive something from someone you know, thanks to phishing schemes) and using caution, you can avoid most cyber scams.

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Backup Data

With today’s “assumption of breach” philosophy, sometimes no matter how careful you are, you may fall victim to a cyber attack. If this does occur, many times your only option to ensure your computer or mobile device is free of threats is to rebuild it from scratch. In some instances, like a ransomware attack, you may be rendered unable to access documents, photos, and other files.

Many times, the only way to restore all of your personal information is from a backup. Always ensure you are doing regular backups of any important information and also periodically test that you can restore from them. I also recommend you store your backups in either the cloud or offline to further protect them against cyber attackers.

Keep Passwords Strong

Despite not being a new tactic, a good first layer of protect is a strong and unique password for every device and accounts. A strong password is one not easily guessed by hackers or by their automated programs.

Tired of passwords that are hard to remember? Try using a passphrase instead of a single word. The longer your passphrase is, the stronger it is and we typically recommend 12 characters or more. Using a unique password means you should use a different password for each device and online account. This protects you in the instance where one password is compromised, keeping your other accounts and devices safe. Remembering all of these strong and unique passwords may sound intimidating,  so that is why we recommend you use a password manager (see 2017’s Best Rated Password Managers), which is an app for your smartphone or computer that securely manages and stores all of your passwords in an encrypted format.

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Passwords alone are no longer enough. Another very important step you can take to protect your accounts, is to enable two-factor authentication. With two-factor authentication, you still use your password, but you also add an additional step of either something you are (biometrics) or something you have (like a text message of a code sent to your smartphone). This is one of the most important steps you can take and we recommend you use this option on every account you can, especially your password manager.

Updates, Updates, Updates

Make sure your computers, applications, mobile devices, and any other smart devices are running the latest software versions. Attackers are always looking to exploit vulnerabilities in the software and devices you use. And when they discover them, they can easily hack into the devices you use. Make it more difficult for hackers to attack your devices by ensuring your computers and mobile devices have the latest updates. If your operating systems or devices are old and are no longer supported with security updates, we recommend you replace them with new ones.

Cyber security is a responsibility we all share and you are always the first line of defense. I hope you’ll join me (or follow us on social #AOSTech17) at AOTS.

Questions? Reach out to me at JAlbuquerque@CarouselIndustries.com. Let’s all be #CyberAware.