Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Cybersecurity in the news and how it affects you 

Odds are that soon just about anything could be on the internet, from the washing machine to the refrigerator in smart homes connected to smart cars, smart streets and smart cities.

This burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) will offer ease, utility and convenience.

Unless, of course, you can’t afford any of the new technology because your credit was ruined by identity theft. Or a whole city suffers after a massive hack, gridlocking streets with driverless cars run amok. Or a neighborhood’s drinking water is tainted by a malfunction in the water treatment system. The “doom” scenarios are endless as more everyday items connect to what can be an unruly technology ecosystem.

While you may not be able to do much about institutions getting hacked, you can do some things to protect yourself. In conjunction with National Cybersecurity Awareness Month in October, here are some recent threats in the news and what you can do to avoid them or to mitigate the consequences:

Equifax Hack

On Sept. 7 it was reported that more than 140 million people’s personal information, including Social Security numbers, had been stolen from Equifax after a hack. The company knew about the hack more than a month prior and waited months to fix a flaw in its security system that permitted the breach.

What can you do to help protect your credit?

  • Sign up for a credit freeze with each of the three credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.
  • The freeze can be initiated within minutes online for free at the Indiana Attorney General’s website.

IoT Attacks

The IoT means everyday devices, such appliances and thermostats, may be connected to the internet, leaving them vulnerable to attack.

What does that mean for you as a consumer?

  • Check out the reputation of the brand. Do reviewers rate it as a secure product? What information is available about the product’s security?
  • Use caution when deciding which devices you want connected to the internet. Sure, it is convenient to have your baby’s video monitor accessible on your smartphone, but what if it’s also being broadcast to the rest of the internet?
  • Update the software on your devices because the updates often contain security fixes. Use strong, secure passwords and usernames.

Bluetooth Exploits

A smartphone, though small, is a powerful device. Not just because of its computing power, but also all of the sensitive data and personal information it could contain: bank account information, passwords, credit card numbers, social media profiles, email. All of these things could be a treasure trove of information for hackers and identity thieves.

Bluetooth and near field communication (NFC) allow different mobile devices to communicate with each other, your phone and wireless earphones, for example. Left on, they can be exploited by hackers to get into your device.

What can you do to help prevent anyone from accessing your device?

  •  Turn off Bluetooth and NFC whenever feasible.
  •  Don’t use unsecure Wi-Fi networks.

Above all: Educate yourself. Know the latest cybersecurity threats and do your best to prevent yourself from being left vulnerable. Visit the Secure Purdue website for more information and free anti-virus software downloads.

Further Reading

Writer: Kirsten Gibson, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), 765-494-8190, gibson33@purdue.edu

Last updated: October 4, 2017

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