Taking the first steps to being Cyber Smart can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be if you know where to start.

Being cyber secure involves more than just installing a security software or setting up a firewall on your system. There is no such thing as a silver bullet for robust cybersecurity protection. Cybersecurity requires multiple layers of defense, starting with the basics.

In recognition of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we encourage you to do your part by creating strong passwords, updating your applications, and implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA). Those are just a few examples of what can be done at an individual level to help build a solid foundation for your company’s cybersecurity posture.

Start With Good Password Practices

A recent report shows that 46% of individuals use a different password for important online accounts. Twenty percent say that they “never” or “rarely” do so, and only 43% said they create a long and unique password either “always” or “very often.” Considering password theft is the single biggest cause of hacking-related breaches, this data is concerning.

The Center for Internet Security recommends using long, complex, and unique passwords or passphrases to help prevent your accounts from being compromised. And never use the same password across different platforms and systems; if your credentials are stolen, the attacker could have access to everything protected by that password. Keeping track of and remembering dozens of passwords (if not more) can be daunting. Consider using a password manager to store unique passwords for each account.

Malicious actors employ various methods to crack passwords to then sell, trade or share on the Dark Web. Cybercriminals can also attempt to use stolen credentials themselves for Account Takeover (ATO), aiming to gain access to user accounts without their knowledge and potentially locking you out of your own account.

Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a digital authentication method that requires two or more distinct authentication factors for successful authentication. There are three authentication factors:

  1. Something you know (e.g. password or PIN),
  2. Something you have (e.g. proved by a passcode sent to or generated by a device or account), or
  3. Something you are (e.g. a biometric, such as a fingerprint to unlock a phone).

Multi-factor authentication requires that authenticators come from two or more of the factors. Using two different passwords would not qualify.

By requiring multiple methods of authentication, your account is further protected from being compromised. Even if a malicious actor obtains your password, MFA makes it more difficult for attackers to break into your accounts using password-cracking tools. It adds that necessary second check to verify your identity when logging into one of your accounts, further protecting the account from being compromised.

Backup Your Data

While backing up your data won’t prevent an attack, it can help you recover more thoroughly and quickly in the event of an incident. Part of building cyber-strong technology includes backing up your data, system images, and configurations and regularly testing them to ensure they protect your data and can be brought back online after an attack. Consider the 3-2-1 method: keep at least three copies of your data on two different storage types with at least one copy stored offsite. 

Keep Your Software Up-to-Date

We’ve all been there: A popup on our computer encourages you to update the software, and we click “Later”  – then forgetting to do it altogether. But having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system on devices is one of the best defenses against online threats. So, don’t wait – update.

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