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October is Cyber Security Awareness Month. With technology playing a huge part in both our personal and professional lives, it is more important than ever to be informed about the different components of cyber security. This quick guide will help you be better prepared to protect yourself, your business, and your devices from cyber threats.

What is a Cyber Threat?

A cyber threat is an online activity designed specifically to compromise the security of a computer network, website, social media page or any other kind of information system. The people who carry out these acts can have a variety of goals in mind, but they all have to do with gaining access to your data, your devices, your systems, or your networks. Cyber threats take advantage of low cyber security awareness and changing technology in order to access your information. 

Canadians put more and more of their information online every day in a variety of places. These are prime targets for individuals or groups that carry out cyber attacks. The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security created 5 steps to help you better secure your information and make it harder for your data to be targeted.

1. Practice Good Password Etiquette

Most online spaces that allow you to make purchases, leave comments, or interact with other users require a password of some kind. For all your accounts, it is best to use long, complex passwords that cannot be easily guessed. It is also important to make sure you have a different password for each separate login that you use.

Using one password to access many different accounts can make it easy for someone to gain access to all of your information if one of your accounts is compromised in a cyber attack. Having separate passwords makes it far more difficult for a single attack to affect all of your online activity or compromise your private information.

2. Install Updates to Your Mobile Devices, Computers, and Applications

In addition to improving performance or fixing bugs, updates are also useful for security reasons. Cyber threats constantly change, but so do the defenses software developers employ to prevent them. Keeping your devices and applications updated is the easiest way to help make sure your data is protected from the latest threats to cyber security. 

3. Secure Your Social Media and Email Accounts

These applications already require passwords, but there are further steps you can take as well. A common feature many social media sites and email providers offer is Multi Factor Authentication. This adds an extra layer of security to your accounts that are already password protected. A common option is the ability to recieve a text message to your mobile divice with a one-time passcode whenever an unfamiliar device is attempting to sign in to one of your accounts. Without the code you receive, whoever is trying to sign in, cannot access your account even if they already know your current login information. 

4. Be On Guard for Phishing Emails and Messages

We've likely all at one point or another, received an email supposedly from a foreign prince or a long lost relative promising to leave us vast sums of money. These are both typical examples of phishing. Messages or emails like these often try to entice us with exciting offers in exchange for things like banking or credit card information. There are also more subtle forms of phishing emails that are disguised to look like they come from trusted sources like our banks, stores we shop at online, or even friends and co-workers.

As a general rule, you should never open an email in your inbox that isn't from a trusted source and only open emails from familiar senders if you are expecting them. At the same time, it is never a good idea to respond to requests for credit card numbers, bank accounts, passwords or any other kinds of sensitive personal information over email. No legitimate business would ever request to deal with your information this way.

5. Make Sure to Backup Your Data Properly

There are many stories in the news about massive corporations having their customer data leaked or stolen in cyber attacks. Unfortunately, even if you are a small business owner, you are still a potential target for cyber criminals. If you own a business that handles customer data, it is extremely important that you take the necessary steps to keep it secure. This requires having multiple copies of the information you store in order to backup your data if one of your systems is compromised. 

IT experts recommend that that proper data backup procedures stick to the 3-2-1 Rule:

3 Copies of Data

Stored on 2 Different Mediums

And 1 Copy Stored Offsite

Practice Cyber Safety

By incorporating each of these 5 steps into your daily use of information technology, you can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a victim of cyber crime. Talk to your friends, family, or coworkers about being cyber safe and share these best practices with them.