Main Content

That Time of Year

By Ronald Glenn, M.A., CFP®

Did you know that October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month? It’s true – since 2004, the President of the United States and Congress have declared October as a month dedicated for the public and private sectors and tribal communities to work together to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity. The task seems daunting – where does one begin, what is most important to consider, and what is the most effective strategy for keeping oneself safe in our ever-increasing digital world? Should we ditch the cell phone, return to the landline, and illuminate our houses at night with candles? I am being facetious, of course, but it does seem like eliminating the device itself solves all our problems, but then others are likely to bubble up. Here are some things to consider during this month (or any month), with the caveat that I am merely scratching the surface.



Don’t balk at the suggestion or the opportunity to double your login protection when it’s available. No matter how long and strong your password is, a breach is always possible. All it takes is for one of your accounts to be hacked and your personal information and possibly other accounts can be accessible to cybercriminals. If you enable multi-factor authentication, the only person with access to your account information is you. Use it for banking, social media, email, and any other service that requires logging in.



Practice safe surfing wherever you are by checking for the green lock or padlock in your internet browser bar – this indicates a secure connection. Whenever you are out and about, avoid free internet access without encryption. If you do use unsecured Wi-Fi, avoid banking or any kind of financial transaction or activity, including using a credit card for shopping or service purchases.



Seemingly real emails from known institutions or business contacts may ask for financial or personal information. Cybercriminals will often offer a financial reward, threaten you if you don’t engage, or claim a family member is in dire need of help. If they have any details from your life – your job title, email address, full name, and more that you may have published online somewhere – they can attempt a phishing attack on you. Cybercriminals can also use social engineering with these details to try to manipulate you into skipping normal security protocols. If you’re unsure of the email sender, even if details seem accurate, don’t respond or click on any links or attachments found in the email. Let’s face it – we’re inundated with reminders, alarms, and interruptions throughout the day. The to-do list seems to grow faster than the completed list. We can easily let our guard down and find ourselves susceptible to security breaches in our offices and homes. Slowing down and visualizing the online criminal intent on wreaking havoc on your digital life seems to be the order of the day.