Surviving in Our Cyber World

Often times, we may not realize that our actions online might put us, our families, and even our country at risk. Learning about the dangers online and taking action to protect ourselves is the first step in making the Internet a safer place for everyone. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and we each have a role to play.

Cybersecurity involves protecting that infrastructure by preventing, detecting, and responding to cyber incidents. The spectrum of cyber risks is limitless; threats, some more serious and sophisticated than others, can have wide-ranging effects on the individual, community, organizational, and national level.

Individuals cyber threats include misuse of personal identifiable information, credit card fraud, security hacks and much more. So being aware how to deal with an attack before, during, and after can greatly increase the longterm impact it will have. 

Cyber-attack is any type of offensive maneuver employed by individuals or whole organizations that targets computer information systems, infrastructures, computer networks, and/or personal computer devices by various means of malicious acts usually originating from an anonymous source that either steals, alters, or destroys a specified target by hacking into a susceptible system.

Why It's Important

Governments, military, corporations, financial institutions, hospitals and other businesses collect, process and store a great deal of confidential information on computers and transmit that data across networks to other computers. With the growing volume and sophistication of cyber attacks, ongoing attention is required to protect sensitive business and personal information, as well as safeguard national security. 

During a Senate hearing in March 2013, the nation's top intelligence officials warned that cyber attacks and digital spying are the top threat to national security, eclipsing terrorism.

Before A Cyber Attack

You can increase your chances of avoiding cyber risks by setting up the proper controls. The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family, and your property before a cyber incident occurs.

  • Only connect to the Internet over secure, password- protected networks.
  • Do not click on links or pop-ups, open attachments, or respond to emails from strangers.
  • Do not respond to online requests for Personally Identifiable Information (PII); most organizations – banks, universities, companies, etc. – do not ask for your personal information over the Internet.
  • Password protect all devices that connect to the Internet and user accounts.
  • If you see something suspicious, report it to the proper authorities.

It would also be very beneficial to take the time and back up your important documentation physically and digitally. To learn more about taking the right care of your most important documents check out our article here for the full run down. 

During A Cyber Attack

Immediate Actions

  • Check to make sure the software on all of your systems is up-to-date.
  • Run a scan to make sure your system is not infected or acting suspiciously.
  • If you find a problem, disconnect your device from the Internet and perform a full system restore.

At Home

  • Disconnect your device (computer, gaming system, tablet, etc.) from the Internet. By removing the Internet connection, you prevent an attacker or virus from being able to access your computer and perform tasks such as locating personal data, manipulating or deleting files, or using your device to attack others.
  • If you have anti-virus software installed on your computer, update the virus definitions (if possible), and perform a manual scan of your entire system. Install all of the appropriate patches to fix known vulnerabilities.

At Work

  • If you have access to an IT department, contact them immediately. The sooner they can investigate and clean your computer, the less damage to your computer and other computers on the network.
  • If you believe you might have revealed sensitive information about your organization, report it to the appropriate people within the organization, including network administrators. They can be alert for any suspicious or unusual activity.

At a Public Place (library, school, etc.)

  • Immediately inform a librarian, teacher, or manager in charge. If they have access to an IT department, contact them immediately.

Immediate Actions if your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is compromised:

PII is information that can be used to uniquely identify, contact, or locate a single person. PII includes but is not limited to:

  • Full Name, Social security number, Address, Date of birth, Place of birth, Driver’s License Number, Vehicle registration plate number, Credit card numbers, Physical appearance, Gender or race.

After A Cyber Attack

If you believe your PII is compromised:

  • Immediately change all passwords; financial passwords first. If you used the same password for multiple resources, make sure to change it for each account, and do not use that password in the future.
  • If you believe the compromise was caused by malicious code, disconnect your computer from the Internet.
  • Restart your computer in safe mode and perform a full system restore.
  • Contact companies, including banks, where you have accounts as well as credit reporting companies.
  • Close any accounts that may have been compromised. Watch for any unexplainable or unauthorized charges to your accounts.
  • If your PII was compromised, consider other information that may be at risk. Depending what information was stolen, you may need to contact other agencies; for example, if someone has gained access to your Social Security number, contact the Social Security Administration. You should also contact the Department of Motor Vehicles if your driver's license or car registration has been stolen.

Sources: Ready.gov, UMUC

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