There seems to be a day, a week or a month for just about everything these days – from National Grilled Cheese Day (yes, you can look it up) to World Space Week to International Walk to School Month. Some of these are more interesting and important than others, and some are so important that it’s too bad we need a particular time on the calendar to be reminded of them.

That’s the case for National Cyber Security Awareness Month, which occurs every October, but, in fact, ought to be a daily activity.

Having represented cyber security clients for more than 10 years now, I know the importance of good cyber hygiene. Do I always practice it? Well….it’s not easy to practice what you preach. Nevertheless, here are some tips that I find helpful as a PR professional:

  • Change your passwords often. Yes, it’s a pain, but your password really is the simplest entry point into your system and your information – and possibly even that of customers. You can read this article on the McAfee website for more information on password setting.
  • Try not to use password-dependent applications in an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot like at a coffee shop or airport. The term “unsecured” means what it says: you’re operating without any security and your sessions are open to anybody, including bad actors. You might not know it, but they do.
  • Don’t click on a link from ANYBODY you don’t know. I’ve been practicing this one for a while, but the hackers have gotten tricky. You can receive emails that have your friends’ or associates’ names in the “from” line but not their exact email address. This is hard to spot because you don’t always remember someone’s exact email alias. And even when it is a known address, check the message. If it says something uncharacteristic like, “I recommend you visit this site,” don’t be fooled. That email account was probably hacked and is sending malware.
  • Beware of the thumb drive (USB drive, memory stick). Sure, they’re handy when you want to transport files from one place to another – from home or a customer site back to your office, or from your machine to an office supply store to get photos made. But you can transport malware from site to site or you can lose the device (let me count the times). Even if your own locations are “clean,” you could loan your drive to a friend or borrow theirs without knowing their system’s already infected. Then voila: all your systems – and possibly even a customer’s (more than embarrassing) – are compromised.
  • Finally, make sure all your systems – including your mobile devices – are armed with security software. I have my favorites, but I won’t mention them here. However, if you want to email me….