In this new era of continually evolving cyber threats, it is imperative to keep your information safe and out of the hands of the “bad guys.” October is National Cybersecurity Awareness month and this year’s theme is Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart. To do our part in spreading Cybersecurity Awareness, we have compiled 5 tips you can implement today that can save you from a catastrophe down the line.

  1. Your Password Can’t be “Password123”

Sure, that might not be your exact password, but it is essential to use something stronger – preferably a string of upper and lowercase characters with special characters thrown in the mix. Better yet, use a passphrase – a sentence or acronym that’s easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess. Extra tip: Don’t use the same password on all your accounts. Someone who is trying to impersonate you will try and see if they can access anything else that may be of value to you if they figure out your password.

  1. Watch out for Social Engineers

Not all security breaches start from a hacker figuring out a password. Many times, it’s easier for them to go right to the source and trick someone into giving up the information themselves. Social engineering takes many forms, such as phishing – attempting to get you to click on a link or open an attachment in an email, pretexting – building trust through a fabricated scenario to convince a victim to give up valuable information, or tailgating – attempting to gain access to a secured area by saying they are a contractor or the “new guy” whose badge/ID card just happens not to work. If something seems suspicious, alert an authority immediately because it might just be an attempt at a security breach.

  1. That Random USB Drive You Found is a Plant

More likely than not, a random USB drive laying around and left in a place with high traffic is probably a plant. That USB labeled “Payroll Q2” isn’t really from the accounting department just forgotten. USB sticks can be planted anywhere from the workplace to public places, with the intent to have an unsuspecting person plug it into their device. These thumb drives can be loaded with “malware” or malicious software. The bad guy can use this software to infiltrate your computer and take your sensitive information, or even enable your webcam and microphone without notifying you that it’s on with a little light that’s usually next to it. They have basically turned your device into a bug and can now spy on you. Moral of the story, never plug anything you are not sure of into your devices.

  1. Coffee Shop WiFi? Use a VPN.

If you are using a public network/internet connection, you should get in the habit of using a Virtual Private Network–VPN for short–to create a secure internet connection. If you connect to public WiFi without a VPN, you may be vulnerable to criminals attempting to access any sensitive data stored on your device, such as your passwords, your bank account information, or your files. A VPN adds an extra layer of security by encrypting your Internet connection to secure it and protect your privacy.

  1. Your Security: Never Good Enough

Cybersecurity is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Your security is only as good as the point you made contributions to improving it. Cyber threats are continually evolving, constantly introducing new challenges and risks, but the good news is, you can continually improve your security posture by updating passwords, applying the latest security updates, and staying informed about that latest cyber threats. And one of the best things you can do is go with your gut instinct. If something looks suspicious, it probably is.

There are many, MANY more ways you can improve your cybersecurity, but these five tips are your gateway to getting started. Even if you know a thing or two about cybersecurity, it’s always good to go back to the basics to make sure you are guarding against some of the most common cyber-attacks.

Now, stay safe remember to Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart!