McMaster cyber heroes’ series | Cyber hygiene: simple habits to keep yourself and others secure
We click on all sorts of links all the time. But what if we click on something that we shouldn’t have?
There are cyber villains (also known as hackers, threat actors or nefarious characters) out there who are trying to steal our private information and credentials to get into our bank accounts, commit identity theft, and more.
Phishing is an attempt by a third party to solicit confidential information from an individual, group, or organization by mimicking a well-known brand or person, usually for financial gain. Phishing attempts happen to any and every one that connects to the internet. There are various forms of phishing including: smishing, spear phishing, whaling, spoofing and many others. To learn more about how not to be lured to the bait, use this Phishing Fact Sheet to learn more about it!
Em and the case of suspicious software
This week Em needs to download some software for their class. They search up the software and click on a webpage that’s offering it for free, but asking for personal information like their name, birthdate, and address. Em’s cyber kick in – this is suspicious. Instead, they go onto the McMaster software licensing page to check if they can download the software through their McMaster account.
Dr. Eff and the funky email
While preparing for their class, Dr. Eff receives an email notification with the subject line: “IT SECURITY URGENT!! Your account is COMPROMISED. Must reset password IMMEDIATELY. Click the link!”
Because of the email tone of urgency, Dr. Eff thinks it’s very important. However, before proceeding with replying or clicking on any link, Dr. Eff checks the sender address: email@example.com. They notice “official” and ‘Micrsoft’ are spelled incorrectly in the address. Dr. Eff’s cyber senses are tingling. Right away, they forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org for further inspection.
Ay and the too-good-to-be-true gift card
A new email pops into Ay’s inbox, and it contains a link for a free $100 Amazon gift card. They’re not sure who the sender is, but it’s addressed to a lot of people they don’t know. Ay’s cyber senses raise an alarm because why would they have received a free gift card? Ay thinks that sounds too good to be true and this must be a phishing attempt. Same as Dr. Eff they forward the email to email@example.com, just in case.
Super cyber security takeaways
Cyber hygiene is a set of habits to keep yourself, digital devices, and data safe and secure online from theft or attack. You can think of cyber hygiene as brushing your teeth or taking a shower after working a long day outside on a hot day.
- Beware of suspicious communications, stay alert and use your cyber senses to sort through phishing, spam, and malware!
- Hover over links and think about who is contacting you and what they are asking you to do. Why are they asking me these questions? Am I providing sensitive information? Is there financial information or money involved?
- Ensure that channels of communication you are using when handing out sensitive information are recognized and secure ones
- Use a strong password on all your devices
- Update your devices regularly with the latest software patches
- Backup your data and files
- Connect to trusted Wi-Fi networks when travelling
A full detailed list on various tips and tricks of how to protect yourself, devices and online activity can be found in this cyber hygiene fact sheet.
Learn more about Phishing. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to complete the McMaster Phishing course on Avenue to Learn.
If you do fall victim to a phishing scam, do not be embarrassed. Report any and all suspicious email messages to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spot the cyber cat throughout the month in stories by McMaster IT. Each week, cyber cat will appear in one of the stories. If you spot cyber cat that week, let us know here where in the world is cyber cat. Each time you get it right, you’ll be entered for a chance to win a prize from the McMaster Campus Store!News Category