​By Debra Boothe

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and 2018 marks the 15th year that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is hosting this initiative. This year’s theme centers on the idea that national cybersecurity is our shared responsibility.

The nation’s critical infrastructure runs on the internet. The systems that enable citizens to live their daily lives—the electrical systems, financial institutions, transportation systems and more—are all dependent upon one digital ecosystem.

As cybersecurity breaches continue to increase in frequency and scale, it is critical that all Americans understand their roles in keeping that digital ecosystem secure, and that they take active steps to do so.

Every day, millions of people connect to our nation’s critical infrastructure without even realizing it. They do this from their smartphones, tablets, computers and other devices. Here are some simple ways to do your part in keeping our critical infrastructure secure by protecting your devices and practicing safe habits online.

Keep an updated machine

Keep your security software, operating system and web browsers on your devices updated. Maintaining up-to-date software can prevent attackers from being able to take advantage of known vulnerabilities.

Enable stronger authentication

Whenever possible, enable stronger authentication for an added layer of security. This can help keep your email, social media profiles and financial accounts safer than they would be behind a single password. Stronger authentication, such as multifactor authentication that uses a one-time code texted to a mobile device, helps verify that a user is authorized to access a particular account.

When in doubt, throw it out

Links in email and online posts are common ways for cybercriminals to compromise your devices. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete it or mark it as junk email.

Make passwords long and hard to guess

Use complex passwords with a combination of numbers, symbols and letters. Use unique passwords for different accounts. Vary uppercase and lowercase letters whenever possible. 

Secure your Wi-Fi network

Your home’s wireless router is a gateway through which cybercriminals can potentially access your connected devices. Secure your Wi-Fi network and your digital devices by changing the factory-set default password and username.

Note: Boothe is an Information Technology specialist who works under the Innovative Management Concepts contract. This article is adapted from information provided by the Department of Homeland Security.

Last modified on September 12th, 2023