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INDIANAPOLIS — There is nothing spookier than a cyberattack, especially one that leaks personal information and puts safety at risk. However, thankfully, it can be avoided.

Governor Eric Holcomb had proclaimed October to be Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which aims to educate citizens on ways to protect themselves and their data from online cyberattacks. One way this would be protected is the Cyber Incident Reporting Law that had gone into effect in July, where organizations are required to fill out an online form detailing a cyberattack in hopes to track the perpetrator down as well as warn others of incidents to be aware of.

Anybody can fall victim to a cyberattack. From massive corporations to everyday people playing games on their phones — information can fall into the wrong hands if someone desperately wants it.

During the pandemic, as people would work from home, there became an increased need for digital applications and virtual meeting rooms. However, as websites noticed an increase in traffic, they also began to notice an increase in threats.

Zoom, for example, had faced several security and privacy issues after their user count had skyrocketed from 10 million in December 2019 to 300 million in April 2020. Even in applications that have many security features, such as Slack, data leaks are still possible.

For those that are still working from home, it’s important to keep information safe. Even for personal use, cybersecurity is something that benefits society as a whole and helps maintain privacy. Here are some ways to maintain cybersecurity no matter the position or situation one might be in:

  1. Pay attention for phishing.

    Phishing is used either by scam emails, phone calls or fake websites in order to trick people into giving out their personal information and data. They look like a legitimate source in order to entice everyday people into concern or curiosity, striking when it’s least expected.

    Some dead give-aways of phishing include incorrect spelling/grammar, incorrect email addresses, urgency to act and if hovering over the link reveals a different website.
  2. Download security software and firewall protection. Keep them updated.

    Think of a firewall as a shield when going into battle. It’s the first line of defense between you and the attacker, preventing unauthorized users from accessing your accounts and data. Anti-virus software will be able to target and eliminate any threats that made it past the firewall.

    Keeping both of those updated will help ensure they’re operating at tip-top shape.
  3. Use secure, private Wi-Fi.

    It can be pleasant, even easy, to use free Wi-Fi at a local cafe or common hangout spot. However, that does not mean it’s safe. Many public Wi-Fi networks don’t have things like encryption and VPNs (virtual private networks), so it makes things risky when it comes to being online.

    VPNs will be able to keep data private even in a public setting, and with a powerful firewall and anti-virus software installed, interception of personal information will be incredibly difficult.
  4. Use strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication. Change your passwords.

    Some may not want to enable two-factor authentication because it can take up time and be annoying, but it is something that will add an extra layer of safety to someone trying to hack into profiles that aren’t theirs. Having a second way to log in that hackers won’t easily have access to will eliminate a large percentage of potential hazards.

    As far as passwords go, a strong password must be at least 10 characters and contain numbers, symbols and capital and lowercase letters. Companies will often inform their users of a data breach and if changing passwords is necessary, however, even when things are safe it’s important to update passwords semi-regularly anyways.
  5. Block and report.

    Scammers will be persistant. It’s best to block them as they come, and report them to the IT department so that the problem may be addressed and eliminated.
  6. Back up important files.

    In the absolute worst case scenario that privacy is breached and data ends up being corrupted, it’s a good idea to have files backed up so that they can be accessed again after a hard reset and system cleaning. It can save months, if not years, of progress and time spent on a project.
  7. Educate others.

    The most powerful weapon in an aresenal is knowledge. Knowledge is power, and power is what’s used to prevent bad things from happening.

    Educating others about cybersecurity and ways to prevent potential cyberattacks will cause a ripple-effect of protection. Since you personally may not always be targetted, a close friend or family member might fall into a hacker’s crosshairs, so informing them on how to stay safe will keep their information and data protected.
  8. Make cybersecurity a habit.

    While Cybersecurity Awareness Month is only in October, being aware to cybersecurity threats is not limited to being month-long. Keeping open eyes and ears on potential security hazards even outside of the workforce will prove to be beneficial to not only yourself, but to your peers.