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Before we share some important tips for staying safe online over the holidays, we want to thank you. Your extraordinary dedication and flexibility at a critical moment in the academic schedule has helped us confidently face a severe global IT security threat. Below are a few cybersecurity tips to follow year-round that are especially important as we head into the winter break.
Take extra precautions around the holidays
Malicious hackers typically step up their efforts around the holidays when IT support is not as readily available and organizations are likely to be slower to detect and respond to suspicious activity. So it’s particularly important right now to follow online security best practices.
Make your passwords strong
One of the main causes of data breaches is compromised password security. Cybercriminals try to access your information for multiple reasons but the most common one tends to be financial gain. Use a unique password for each account, create strong passwords and give yourself the gift of a good password manager.
Install security updates as soon as they are available
Unfortunately, many software vulnerabilities are only discovered after they have already been exploited. That’s why keeping your software up-to-date with the latest security updates is incredibly important because it’s safe to assume that malicious actors are on the hunt for out-of-date devices.
Be on the lookout for phishing scams
The holidays are notorious for a redoubling of phishing scam efforts. There are a number of clues that can help you distinguish legitimate emails from scams. Watch out for emotional pleas, impersonation attempts, and fake and malicious links and attachments. Find more tips on the Office of Information Security’s Phishing Scams FAQs page.
Use the VPN when on public networks
Public networks in places like airports, coffee shops and other popular gathering spots are often targeted by hackers, who may monitor activity on a public network or set up a hotspot in hopes that you choose it, allowing them a window into your online session. Be sure to always use the “official” WiFi network or use cellular data when on the go. Using a VPN protects your online session and should be used when you’re doing work on a public network. And when making purchases, make sure you do it only on a secured network, and if that’s not possible, then use the VPN. That creates a secure connection to the campus network. The campus offers VPN clients for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android.
Register a device in Microsoft MFA if you haven’t already
When it comes to your account security, more factors equals more protection. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) has been shown to block 99.9 percent of compromised-credential attacks which often target email and document storage. Most employees have already registered in MFA, but if you haven’t registered a device in MFA or are unsure whether you have, you can prompt the MFA registration process and also check which device you have registered by going to Microsoft’s My Sign-Ins page. If you are a student who wants to start protecting your Microsoft account right now, you can self-enroll in Microsoft MFA using this webform.
The Office of Information Security has many more cybersecurity resources available on their website. We hope you stay safe and have a relaxing, rejuvenating break.
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