3 Questions to Ask During Cyber Security Awareness Month

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Every October, tech minded folk from all known corners of the world gather to discuss, honor, and wallow in self pity over one universal, yet sobering truth…the internet is terrifying. October, a month dedicated to German beer festivals, candy corn, and the zombie-like consumption of pumpkin spiced anything is also Cyber Security Awareness Month. This month, before you dust off your long lost fall jacket, take a few minutes to ask yourself a few basic questions, and hopefully, your answers won’t be nearly as frightening as the trailer for the new Halloween movie.

Question #1: Am I super sure I know what a phishing attack looks like?

Phishing scams, the pumpkin spiced latte of the security world, just never seem to go away. Phishing is the number one way malware and ransomware gets installed on your computer, and it poses a serious risk to your business and your personal data.  Also, as the recent Facebook exploit has shown us, hackers are getting smarter and use stolen personal information to trick us into downloading malware or open fake websites. So during Cyber Security Awareness Month, remember that the easiest way to avoid phishing attacks is to stay smart. Make sure you know what a modern phishing attack looks like, and don’t open any strange, threatening, or surprising emails.

Can you identify a phishing attack?

Question #2: Am I happy with my backup solutions?

Here’s another fall themed analogy for you: Ransomware is like getting Marshmallow Peeps while trick-or-treating; everyone gets it and it’s always disappointing. As far as ransomware goes, once your files are encrypted by a hacker, backups are the only way to recover them. With a wide array of Cloud based backup options available, it is essential that you backup business and personal files, unless you want to risk losing them forever. Recent history has shown us chilling examples of businesses paying ridiculous sums of money to recover from security breaches, such as the Pennsylvania Democratic Caucasus paying over $700,000 to rebuild their systems after a ransomware attack and a rash of ransomware attacks on Ontario towns that have cost these municipalities hundreds of thousands of dollars.

With reliable backups, you can simply restore any locked file that falls prey to a ransomware attack and get back to work within minutes. If you think you are happy with your backup solution, ask yourself a few follow up questions:

  • When is the last time I tested a backup?
  • How quickly can I restore a file?
  • Could I restore individual email messages?
  • What, exactly, is being backed up?
Are my systems up to date?

Unsupported and unpatched systems is a major security risk. This includes running outdated versions of Windows on your PC and unsupported versions of Windows Server for work purposes. In the event of a new security attack, your older systems will not receive vendor updates, meaning that you will be increasingly vulnerable to data breaches and other security attacks.

Is your password putting you at risk?

Conclusion: What to do…oh what to do….

Security should always be top of mind, especially during Cyber Security Awareness Month. Leaked information can ruin your personal credit, sink your business, and cause global embarrassment (isn’t that right Facebook?). So this month, take a few extra seconds to change your passwords that you’ve been using since high school, read up on what a phishing scam looks like, and make sure you are happy with your backups. You will be glad you did.

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