Dr. Adnan A. Chawdhry faculty member, Information Technology at American Military University
From simple online web surfing to the availability of e-commerce on our phones and tablets, many people leverage these conveniences with little regard to the associated security risks. In recent months, a number of cyberattacks on large organizations like Home Depot, Target, Apple, and JP Morgan Chase have compromised customer-specific private information.
FBI Director James Comey stated on 60 Minutes, “The Internet is the most dangerous parking lot imaginable.” Yet amid all these concerns and warnings, many do not consider the Internet a dangerous element in their lives. It’s unfortunate that those who do heed these warnings are most likely to have already been the victim of a cybercrime. It often takes such an experience before one has a heightened awareness regarding one’s online behavior and information sharing.
Being constantly connected to technology and the Internet can be quite convenient, but it is also important to understand what we can do on our end in terms of prevention. Simple measures like ensuring we have an up-to-date antivirus program along with routinely running anti-spyware software can be important first steps. It is important to also confirm the address of an email sender or any links we click within an email. It’s likely they can be vanity email addresses and links that are meant to mislead us into believing these messages and websites are legitimate when they actually are a mechanism of extracting personal data.
Lastly, while this may be somewhat surprising to many, be careful of the public Wi-Fi networks you join. Although we gain speed or reduce the amount of cellular data usage, you run the risk of being on public Wi-Fi that a hacker is also monitoring. Using an application or website (banking or other private details) on public Wi-Fi puts you at risk with a potential hacker who may have captured your username and password being sent over the network.
I urge you to not solely rely on other organizations to safeguard your information; even if that is part of their commitment to their customers. Instead, ask yourself, “Am I sharing too much?” Many say that the month of October is denoted for “Cybersecurity Awareness” and we should be researching this topic and how it impacts our lives. However, that is just the initial step in awareness. Awareness has no value unless you follow through with a plan of evaluation and implementation. So go out and research cybersecurity, but take the next step and implement changes to your online behavior that limit your personal information available online. Your online security is in your hands.
About the Author: Dr. Adnan A. Chawdhry has been with American Military University since 2012 teaching in the areas of management information systems and virtualization security. Through his research he has been focused on distance education, privacy, and ethics as it relates to students in an online environment.