Missouri Cyber Security Blog

Safe Browsing at Home

11.01.16

Staying safe online is a group activity – it is important to talk to everyone in your family about being safe online so all of them can recognize the danger and browse the Internet safely. Children and older citizens are particularly at risk because they might not be able to recognize phishing attacks, malware, and other scams.

Here are a few things you can do to keep your family safe:

  1. Secure you Wi-Fi

Keep a password on your home Wi-Fi network. This will help prevent unwanted access to devices on your network, which could compromise your personal information. Check your wireless router’s instruction manual for instructions on how to change your network’s password.

  1. Talk to your family about Social Networking

Many social networks do not allow users under the age of 13 to create an account. When you and your family do sign up for social media, be careful with what personal information you make available to the public.

  1. Create strong passwords

A strong password should be at least 8 characters long and contain a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. It should be easy to remember, but difficult to guess, and should be changed on a regular basis. For more info on passwords visit <link to page about passwords.>

  1. Learn to avoid scams

Scams take on a huge range of variation and methods depending on the desired outcome by the scammer. Some target your money directly, while others want your personal information. For more information, check out our page on scams. <Link to page about scams>

  1. Keep computers up to date

Technology companies regularly release updates for their applications and operating system to improve security by closing holes and exploits used by hackers. Many applications will notify you when these updates are available, and they can be updated with a simple click.

  1. Back up your computer

Keeping an up-to-date backup of your computers can be very important, particularly if you use your computer as a source of income, but even if your computer is strictly personal, the loss of family pictures and videos, financial documents, and other important files can be devastating. There are many methods for backing up your computer such as physical drives that you connect to, as well as cloud backups.

  1. Shop Safely

Shopping online is convenient, but it’s also an opportunity for scammers to steal your money. Prevent this by only shopping from outlets that you can verify are legitimate businesses and making sure to shop using an encrypted (https://) connection (link to https blog post).

category: Awareness

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How to Create and Keep Strong Passwords

10.07.16

A strong password is a key to secure your information and sometimes the information of others or your place of employment. Creating a secure password is vital to staying safe while online, and just as important as creating a strong password, you must maintain that password. No password will keep you secure if others can guess it or steal it.

Tips for creating a secure password:

  • Use a combination of capital letters, lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Make passwords at least 8 characters long.
  • Don’t use words that can be found in the dictionary.
  • Use different passwords for each site.
  • Don’t use your name or names associated with you such as friends, family, pets, or the name of a business.

How to keep a password safe after creating it:

  • Never write down your password.
  • Never share your password with someone else.
  • Never let anyone see you enter your passwords.
  • Always log out of your device when not using it.
  • Change your password periodically.
  • Never enter passwords on public computers or unsecured Wi-Fi.

category: Awareness

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Learn to avoid scams

09.30.16

Technology offers many benefits for connecting with people all over the world. Unfortunately, it also offers more opportunity for criminals to scam unsuspecting victims. Scams can take many forms; some are blatant while others are more subtle, and you can protect yourself by learning to recognize popular scams (link). Regardless of the method, here are some ways to protect yourself from almost any scam.

  1. Know who you’re dealing with

Scammers will often impersonate someone with authority, such as speaking on behalf of bank or a government agency. Always check the email addresses, and if you’re unsure, call a reliable number for that agency such as one found on a bank statement.

  1. Be wary of anyone demanding money

If you get an email demanding money for any reason, such as a debt you were unaware of, and especially if the email is making threats such as legal action for not paying, it is probably a scam. If you’re unsure, do some research on the sender – a quick online search may turn up someone else may who was contacted by the same person.

  1. Don’t share your personal information

You should never give out any personal information to unsolicited sources. This includes financial information, social security numbers, passwords, and access to email and social media accounts.

  1. Delete suspicious email

Never respond to, or click on, links in suspicious emails. If anything seems strange about an email from a source you usually work with, such as a bank or close friend, contact them from a reliable number on the company’s website, instead of using a number from the email.

  1. Take time to check your paperwork

Once a month, set aside a day to review important paperwork in detail. Check bank and credit card statements, any bills or monthly payments, as well as any debt statements such as car and house loans or medical bills. If you find any irregularities in these, contact the sender immediately.

category: Awareness

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Keeping your Wi-Fi secure

09.15.16

Your wifi network is your wireless portal to everything online, but what many may not know is that, if left unsecure, it can offer an access point for criminals to gain access to every computer and mobile device that is connected to that network, which means that any sensitive information stored on those devices is accessible to them. You can use these tips to help keep your network more secure.

  1. Use a Password

Creating a strong password is key to keeping your network secure. It helps protect your files and personal information from hackers. Without a password, your network will be completely open to anybody within Wi-Fi range. For help creating a secure password, go to cybersecurity.mo.gov/tools/password_gen/.

  1. Turn off remote access features

By default, your Wi-Fi router typically has features that allow you to access devices and file storage from a remote location, without being connected to the router’s signal. Unless you know how to set up and secure this type of connection, it should be kept turned off.

  1. Keep your router updated

Periodically, your router’s manufacturer will release updates to improve the security and functionality of your router. Without these updates, your router can become vulnerable to an increasing number of hackers and malicious software, so make sure your router’s software stays updated.

  1. Change your Router Settings

Most Wi-Fi routers have a default Network Name, the fact that it is default means that the name of your network is openly known to anyone. Consult your router’s manual on how to change this. In addition, you should change the admin credentials for your router, these are also typically set to known defaults and if not changed, anybody can log into your network as an administrator.

  1. Turn off your network when not in use

Your router will be in operation most of the time, streaming movies and TV, playing games, checking email, and various other activities throughout the day. Even at night, your computers and other devices are doing security and functionality updates. However, if you are going to be away from home for an extended period of time, such as on a vacation or business trip, turning off your router will make it impossible to anyone to access your network.

category: Awareness

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Keeping your kids safe online

07.07.16

As computers and smart devices have become more common in the home, so has allowing your children to start using them at a young age. But there are many risks involved when your kids have accessibility to the Internet at their fingertips. It can be very easy for them to accidentally reveal too much personal information or be exposed to inappropriate material. Cyber bullying and online predators are also harmful threats to your children’s safety. Ultimately, appropriate rules for online use vary by age, maturity of the child and your personal family values, but here are some tips to help get you started keeping your kids safe online.

  1. Have the computer in a high-traffic area of the home

This allows you to frequently check in on what they’re doing online. You can also apply this rule to tablets and phones by only allowing them to use these devices in public spaces around the house. If it seems unrealistic to keep track of their Internet activity this way, you can install apps on your kid’s wireless devices to let you monitor their activity and limit which websites they can visit.

  1. Talk to your kids about what they like to do online

Stay involved in their online activities – if you know what websites and apps they like to use, you’ll be better equipped to warn them of potential dangers, like posting personal information or sharing inappropriate photos and videos . Following your kids on social media is also a good idea to stay up-to-date on everything they are doing and saying.

  1. Don’t let them download or install anything without your permission

Explain to your kids that scams and viruses can easily be disguised as downloadable games or software installs and updates. By urging your kids to get your consent every time one pops up, you can safely check it out without jeopardizing your family’s privacy and online information.

  1. Warn them about cyber bullying and predators

Talk to your kids about not sharing mean or hurtful comments online. If they receive mean messages, show them how they can block the bully’s account to prevent additional messages. If the messages are threatening or dangerous, alert the appropriate authorities, whether that is the school administrator, the social media site itself, or the police. Discuss the dangers of meeting people for the first time after chatting online, and encourage them speak with you if anything online ever makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

 

There is an increased need for security as technology continues to advance in your home and become another normal household accessory. Stay up-to-date on the latest information about how to protect your family from cyber criminals and always keep an eye out for potential threats or suspicious activity. To learn more about staying safe online, visit mo.gov/cyber.

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