The Internet touches nearly every aspect of our daily lives. From computers and laptops at homes, schools and workplaces to smartphones and tablets that can be used anywhere, the ability to instantly connect with information and people around the world offers countless opportunities for everyone, including criminals.
Governor Bruce Rauner has proclaimed October National Cyber Security Awareness Month to highlight the importance of understanding and avoiding cyber risks. During October, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is joining with local emergency management agencies to increase awareness of online risks and provide tips on what people can do to prevent problems.
“Cybercrime is a serious problem throughout the world,” said Gov. Rauner. “Every day, criminals find new ways to steal valuable information from governments, businesses and individuals for financial gain or actions that could imperil our safety. Each of us has a responsibility to help maintain the security of cyberspace.”
Each week in October, IEMA will post information and tips on various cyber security topics on the Ready Illinois website (www.Ready.Illinois.gov) to help people avoid cybercrimes. Tips and links to cyber security information also will be posted on the Ready Illinois Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ReadyIllinois) and Twitter page (twitter.com/ReadyIllinois). Topics include:
- Oct. 1-4 – Protect yourself against cybercrime
- Oct. 5-11 – Be mobile, but not a victim
- Oct. 12-18 – Don’t reuse passwords
- Oct. 19-25 – Don’t be too social
- Oct. 26-31 – Don’t take the bait on phishing scams
“Cybercrime can range from malware on a single computer to large-scale hacks of large corporations and governments,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “We want to help people understand the risks and provide simple ways they can reduce the chance of being a victim of cybercrime.”
Joseph offered a few tips to help people minimize the risk of being a cybercrime victim including:
- Configure your computer securely Use privacy and security settings in your software, email system and web browsers. Regularly update your anti-virus software to identify and thwart new strains of malicious software.
- Keep software and operating systems updated Be sure to install all software updates as soon as they are offered; using the “auto update” setting is the best way to ensure timely updates.
- Use strong passwords Cybercriminals use automated programs that will try every word in the dictionary in a few minutes. When creating a password, use at least 10 characters, with a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
- Be cautious about links and attachments Even communications you receive that appear to be from friends and family may contain links to malicious sites, so be careful when clicking on links in those messages. When in doubt, delete it.
- Protect your personal information Be aware of financial and sensitive information you give out. Personal information on your social networking pages can be clues to answers to website and bank security questions. Use privacy settings to limit who can see the details of your social network pages and be smart about what you decide to share online.
- Review your financial statements regularly Cybercriminals can find loopholes and your accounts may get hacked through no fault of your own. Review financial statements regularly and contact your financial institution immediately if you see any suspicious looking activity.
- What to do if you are a victim? Notify your bank and any other entities with which you have accounts to inform them that someone may be using your account fraudulently. Contact all three major credit bureaus to request a credit report and have a fraud alert and credit freeze placed on your account. Internet-related crime should be reported to appropriate authorities, including your local police department and the Illinois Attorney General’s office.