Make sure family and friends understand they cannot use your work devices. Something you most likely don't have to worry about at the office is children, guests or other family members using your work laptop or other work devices. They can accidentally erase or modify information, or, perhaps even worse, accidentally infect the device.
Make sure each of your computers, mobile devices, programs and apps are running the latest version of its software. Cyber attackers are constantly looking for new vulnerabilities in the software your devices use. When they discover vulnerabilities, they use special programs to exploit them and hack into the devices you are using. Meanwhile, the companies that created the software for these devices are hard at work fixing them by releasing updates. By ensuring your computers and mobile devices install these updates promptly, you make it much harder for someone to hack you. To stay current, simply enable automatic updating whenever possible. This rule applies to almost any technology connected to a network, including not only your work devices but Internet-connected TV's, baby monitors, security cameras, home routers, gaming consoles or even your car.
When a site asks you to create a password, create a strong password: the more characters it has, the stronger it is. Using a passphrase is one of the simplest ways to ensure that you have a strong password. A passphrase is nothing more than a password made up of multiple words, such as "bee honey bourbon." Using a unique passphrase means using a different one for each device or online account. This way if one passphrase is compromised, all of your other accounts and devices are still safe.
Use a password manager (ie LastPass.com), which is a specialized program that securely stores all your passphrases in an encrypted format (and has lots of other great features, too!). Finally, enable two-step verification (also called two-factor or multi-factor authentication) whenever possible. It uses your password, but also adds a second step, such as a code sent to your smartphone or an app that generates the code for you. Two-step verification is probably the most important step you can take to protect your online accounts and it's much easier than you may think.
Do not forget that we also need to set a good example as parents. This means that when your kids talk to you, put your own digital device down and look them in the eye. Consider not using digital devices at the dinner table and never text while driving. Finally, when kids make mistakes, treat each one as an experience to learn from instead of engaging in an immediate disciplinary action. Explain "why" each time and remind them that you are only trying to protect them from the dangers they cannot yet see. Let them know they can come to you if and when they experience anything uncomfortable online, perhaps even have them take a screenshot to share with you. Make sure they also feel comfortable approaching you when they realize they themselves have done something inappropriate. Keeping communication open and active is the best way to help kids stay safe in today's digital world.
Second would be your home network. Almost every home network starts with a wireless (often called Wi-Fi) network. This is what enables all of your devices to connect to the Internet. Most home wireless networks are controlled by your Internet router or a separate, dedicated wireless access point. Both work in the same way: by broadcasting wireless signals to which home devices connect. This means securing your wireless network is a key part of protecting your home. We recommend the following steps to secure it:
In addition to education, there are technologies you can use to monitor and help protect your kids. We find that technical solutions work best for younger children, especially protecting them from accidentally accessing inappropriate or harmful content. However, technical controls do not work as well as children get older. Older kids not only need more access to the Internet, but often use devices that you do not control or cannot monitor, such as those issued by school, gaming consoles, or computers at a friend's or relative's house. This is why education is so important.
Another step is to have a dedicated computer just for your kids. This way, they cannot accidentally infect your computer, which you may use for sensitive activities, such as banking online or taxes. In addition, keep their computer in a public, high-traffic area so their activities can be monitored. Just because they say they are doing homework does not mean they are actually doing homework. Finally, make sure the computer is secured, routinely backed up, and your children do not have administrator rights to it. For mobile devices, consider a central charging station somewhere in your house. Before your children go to bed at night, have all mobile devices placed at the charging station so your children are not tempted to use them when they should be sleeping.
The number one step you can take is communication; make sure you are always talking to your kids and they are talking to you. Far too often, parents get caught up in the technology, asking questions such as, "What apps are good or bad," or "What is the best kids' security software." Ultimately, this is not a technology challenge, but a behavior and values challenge. We want kids to behave online as they would in the real world. A good place to start is to create a list of rules or expectations with your kids on how they should use technology. Here are some things to consider: (Remember, these rules will evolve as kids get older.)
For older children, one option is to tie these rules to their academic grades, completion of chores, or how they treat others. The better their behavior in the real world, the more they can do online. Once you decide on the rules, post them by the family computer or your child's bedroom door. Even better, have them review and sign the document. That way, everyone is in full agreement. The earlier you start talking to your kids about your expectations, the better. Not sure how to start the conversation, especially with older kids? Ask them what apps they are using and how they work. Put your child in the role of teacher and have them show you what they are doing online.
First and foremost, technology alone cannot fully protect you - you are the best defense. Attackers have learned that the easiest way to get what they want is to target you, rather than your computer or other devices. If they want your password, work data or control of your computer, they'll attempt to trick you into giving it to them, often by creating a sense of urgency. For example, they can call you pretending to be Microsoft technical support and claim that your computer is infected. Or perhaps they send you an email warning that a package could not be delivered, fooling you into clicking on a malicious link. The most common indicators of a social engineering attack include: