July 23, 2014

Cyber security is national security

Cyber-security is one of the country’s most important national security priorities.

Attorney General Van Hollen says the Internet is an incredibly valuable tool but also a potentially dangerous one. The state’s top cop says, “Whether it’s protecting our children from online predators or protecting our identities from fraudsters and scammers, we need to be aware and educated.”

Tod Pritchard with Wisconsin Emergency Management says the best thing to do in protecting your digital data is to use multiple and secure passwords. “Don’t use one password for every log-in that you have. That’s a recipe for disaster because if that password is compromised in one location, the cyber criminal will go and try to find your name in other locations and try that same password.”

Pritchard says you need to be especially protective of your email password, because that’s where the process of resetting all other passwords usually occurs.

Everyone knows how difficult is is to remember scores of passwords. Pritchard recommends writing them down and keeping them in a safe place for reference — away from your computer. He says even using three or four different passwords will help a lot — one for all your social media, one for email, and one for banking.

Also, despite the temptations of free Internet access, it’s important to be very careful of Wi-Fi hotspots at airports or coffee shops. “I would strongly recommend don’t send email, don’t do online banking or any kind of financial transactions on a free Wi-Fi. It’s just to easy for somebody to electronically eavesdrop on you and pick up information that you don’t want them to have.”

Pritchard’s next piece of advice is “when in doubt, throw it out.” Too often many of us get spam messages that look legitimate. Some appear to be from our bank or friends, but could very well be spam containing malware, or it could actually be from a familiar address that has been hijacked by a cyber criminal.

Also, keep your operating system, browser, and other critical software optimized by installing updates.

October 2012 marks the ninth annual National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 2:29