Throughout October, I am posting a weekly blog to promote cybersecurity awareness at TEAMHealth as part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM). The topics are intended to raise awareness about technology-related threats and common security concerns and provide recommendations and tips to assist you to stay safer and more secure online. This week’s topic is Online Security Includes Protecting Yourself On-The-Go.
Almost all Americans, regardless of age, are using mobile devices. Often, mobile devices are used for sensitive activities, including banking, online shopping and social networking. Some of these activities require users to provide personal information such as their names, account numbers, addresses, email addresses and passwords. Moreover, apps routinely ask for access to information stored on the device, including location information.
In addition, the use of unsecured, public Wi-Fi hotspots has increased dramatically over the past few years. These networks are accessible on airplanes, in coffee shops, shopping malls and at sporting events. While continued access provides us with more flexibility and convenience to stay connected no matter where we are, it can also make us more susceptible to exposure.
The more we travel and access the Internet on the go, the more risks we face on our mobile devices. No one is exempt from the threat of cybercrime, at home or on the go, but you can follow these simple tips to stay safe online when connecting to the Internet from a mobile device:
- Think Before You Connect. Before you connect to any public Wi-Fi hotspot–like on an airplane or in an airport, hotel, train/bus station or café-be sure to confirm the name of the network and exact login procedures with appropriate staff to ensure that the network is legitimate. Using your mobile network connection is generally more secure than using a public Wi-Fi network.
- Guard Your Mobile Device. In order to prevent theft, unauthorized access and loss of sensitive information, never leave your mobile devices–including any USB or external storage devices–unattended in a public place. While on travel, if you plan on leaving any devices in your hotel room, be sure those items are appropriately secured.
- Keep It Locked. The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) recommends locking your device when you are not using it. Even if you only step away for a few minutes, that is enough time for someone to steal or destroy your information. Use strong PINs and passwords to prevent others from accessing your device.
- Update Your Mobile Software. Treat your mobile device like your home or work computer. Keep your operating system software and apps updated, which will improve your device’s ability to defend against malware.
- Only Connect to the Internet if Needed. Disconnect your device from the Internet when you aren’t using it and make sure your device isn’t programmed to automatically connect to Wi-Fi. The likelihood that attackers will target you becomes much higher if your device is always connected.
- Know Your Apps. Be sure to thoroughly review the details and specifications of an application before you download it. Be aware that the app may request that you share your personal information and permissions. Delete any apps that you are not using to increase your security.
- Know Available Resources. Resources such as the Federal Communications Commission’s Smartphone Security Checker at www.fcc.gov/smartphone-security help keep you secure.
Be on the lookout for these blog postings throughout the month of October.
Chief Information Security Officer