Michael Cocanower, president and CEO of itSynergy shares his insights on how to protect personal cybersecurity.
People often ask me what keeps me up at night. As a cybersecurity expert and a certified ethical hacker, there’s a lot to worry about. But what concerns me the most is the overall complacency I see every day regarding cybersecurity. When you’re constantly bombarded with news reports about data breaches, it’s easy to zone out. I would imagine some of you may think there’s not a whole lot you can do. Or, maybe you think you’ve got things under control. In the past 30 seconds, some 2,430 data records were lost or stolen. In fact, every day, more than 7 million data records are breached. Do you even know if your personal or work data has been compromised?
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, but we all should be more vigilant about cybersecurity every day. Don’t shrug this off, thinking that cybersecurity is the responsibility of IT providers. Yes, firms like mine are working hard to build sophisticated perimeter defenses, but we can’t do it alone. I recently attended DEF CON 26, one of the world’s largest cybersecurity research and hacking conventions. My biggest takeaway from the event was that we must switch our mentality when it comes to cybersecurity to a mentality of “assume breach.”
Just like termites, hackers can be invisible at first, tunneling into your privacy and causing severe damage. Why wouldn’t you be just as vigilant about preventing an even worse kind of insidious parasite from gaining access to your personal or work data?
I’m hoping you know how important it is to change your passwords regularly and why you should activate two-factor authentication on your email and other accounts. Here are three things to start doing daily:
Keep your guard up. Just because someone seems to know a lot about you, doesn’t mean they are legitimate. Hackers are building tools that aggregate data sources from multiple publicly available databases into a single tool that helps them conduct research and gather information on people they are targeting. For example, they could start out with your full name and plug it into this tool and get your date of birth, every phone number you ever had, every address you ever lived at, names and ages of your kids, your license plate number, what type of car you drive, and list goes on and on.
Be cyber savvy on social media and email. Whether you’re oversharing information or carelessly clicking on links in emails, you put yourself at risk for a breach. Take time to review your privacy settings on all of your social platforms and review your list of friends and followers to make sure they are authentic. Also, look closely at emails that are trying to bait you into clicking on a link.
Be careful with connectivity. Don’t assume you’re safe when you use the Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop or while traveling. The bad guys are lurking at public places, just waiting to get into your computer or phone. Keep in mind, too, that when you rent a car, if you hook your phone up to Bluetooth, you put your personal data at risk.
Be sure to delete your data from the paired phones list when you return the car. Our firm works with small- and medium-size businesses, but I’m so passionate about educating people, we recently launched a fun, free “Super Cyber You” competition.
The contest is underway, but you can join at any point, so long as you complete the eight video challenges and report back to me by midnight, Oct. 24. We’ll announce the winner Oct. 31. To register, visit https://itsynergy.com/itsecurity-challenge/. Michael Cocanower is president and CEO of Phoenix-based itSynergy. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.itsynergy.com.