Secure your home and your news feed with these cybersecurity tips

The message for Cybersecurity Awareness Month in October is Protect IT. This is third in a series, following posts on Own IT and Secure IT.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month encourages all of us to take time out during October to learn how to recognize and react to common threats. Protect IT is all about guarding your identity and privacy online and on internet connected IOT devices.

Defend your digital home

Smart home technology offers security, comfort, convenience and energy efficiency in your home, via a digital personal assistant, or an app on your smartphone or other networked device. These tools are convenient—even fun—but each new connected device increases the risk of being hacked. To secure your home:

  • Secure your Wi-Fi network and your digital devices by changing the factory-set password to a more complex password known only to you.
  • Double your login protection with multi-factor authentication (MFA). Enable it by using a trusted mobile device such as your smartphone, an authenticator app, or a secure token—a small physical device that can hook onto your key ring. MFA secures email, banking, social media, and any other service that requires you to log in.
  • Be app smart. Most connected appliances, toys, and devices are supported by a mobile application. Be aware that apps running in the background on your mobile device could use default permissions you never realized you approved—gathering your personal information without your knowledge.  Select and register for apps carefully, and remove those you do not recognize or use.

Dodge social media bots

Unsurprisingly, not everyone we encounter on social media is human. Social media bots are entities built on artificial intelligence, data analytics, and other programs to simulate human behavior on the internet.  social media platforms are experiencing a surge in activity by social media bots, and that trend is expected to continue.

Automated bots can be programmed to retweet content, impersonate a real user, or conduct other online behaviors with minimal or no interaction from a real human. Bots can be productive and helpful as online chat agents, virtual customer support reps, providing shopping recommendations, and offering alerts for news, events or posts that may be of interest. 

But malicious social media bots and fake accounts pose as human users. They aim to manipulate public opinion on social media, spread fake news, sow distrust in institutions, spread propaganda, and propel conspiracies. Be sure to evaluate the credibility and trustworthiness of social posts. Look for these telltale signs of a bot:

  • Account was created very recently, and has few or no friends or followers
  • Consistently reshares posts with a small number of connections
  • Responds unbelievably fast indicating that the account is “always online”
  • Posts low-quality comments with limited and repetitive vocabulary
  • Has a usernames with long, random number sequences
  • Often uses a profile image taken from real people or “patriotic” images (such as flags, weapons, political symbols)
  • Many posts are retweeted and shared content, rather than original content

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