October is Cyber Security Month. Whether it's the Department of Homeland Security with its _Stop, Think, Connect posters, Wombat Security's Anti-Phishing Phil training in how URL's are constructed, or the National Cyber Security Alliance's Stay Safe Online_ campaign to teach kids about cyber security, there have been dozens of public and private initiatives this month to raise awareness of online security and safety. Most businesses have a keen awareness of the threats they face, and are taking active measures to combat them.
But, as the month winds down, it's clear that there are still some pervasive myths out there that can lure unsuspecting employees to put company data at risk. On-demand enterprise security company SingleHop published a list of four costly cyber security myths that are still pervasive. Jared Hansen, CEO of mobile security leader Breezy, notes that the reason these particular myths are costly for business isn't that most IT leaders or CIOs believe them, but because many employees do.
"Employees who believe these myths are likely to underestimate the value of the data stored on their personal devices " whether they are laptops or mobile devices like smartphones and tablets," Hansen says. "And if they don't understand how their personal devices can become gateways to their company's data, they are more likely to engage in behaviors that put company data at risk."
Mark Cravotta, executive vice president of on-demand enterprise security vendor SingleHop, put the issue of individual behavior and how it can threaten company data into perspective on the company's blog, writing, "Take a minute to think about this question: How much of your life is spent online each day"
"For most of us, it's hours " and not just a few. Whether for work, education, entertainment, shopping, social media, or more personal interactions, in the 21st century humanity has become a species that spends a lot of time interacting with computers connected to the rest of the world through a vast, global network.
"This is an amazing technological feat; bigger than anything created in any other era. It shows an unprecedented level of peaceful cooperation never seen before in history. We can send a message to the other side of the world " whether via cable, radio signal, or even satellite relay " and expect it to arrive almost instantaneously. Only a hundred years ago that same message would have taken weeks or even months to travel the same distance.
"Unfortunately, not everybody is content to use the Internet in a positive and benevolent way. Some of those attacks are by people who are bored or mischievous, while others are motivated by financial gains. Sadly, there are even a few people out there who have more destructive goals, from personal revenge to outright terrorism."
Cravotta says that SingleHop doesn't like to scare people with crazy facts and figures about hackers and the like. However, the myths included in the company's Cyber Security Month materials include some scary facts worth noting, Hansen says.
The Internet is a big place, so it's easy to feel like no one would single out your smartphone, computer, or tablet for an attack. Hackers use automated systems to continually probe the Internet and find unsecured devices. If you buy a new computer or mobile device and connect it to the Internet without any protective measures in place, it can be compromised in mere minutes.
Anyone who uses the computer has sensitive data stored somewhere on their system, such as stored passwords, important email addresses, or even financial information like credit cards and account numbers. Additionally, documents saved on your computer often contain metadata that can provide even more information for hackers to use. Just one detail that you forgot, or didn't know about, could give a cyber criminal the opportunity to steal your identity or to erase irreplaceable information.
System software must also updated regularly to ensure that the latest security measures are in place. Although anti-virus software and firewalls help to protect your devices, they are only able to defend against known threats, not new ones. Most operating systems and software applications allow automatic or scheduled updates to help ensure that you have the newest version.
Files deleted from a computer could still be stored somewhere on your local hard drive either as a copy or in a hidden file. Hackers have tools that can let them easily discover "deleted" files. Additionally, when you remove something from an online profile or website, it is never truly deleted.
Most websites have a dedicated server that stores user information, even if the information no longer appears on the website. It is always safe to think twice before you share any information online, whether through social media, a retail site, or elsewhere, since it could stay out there for much longer than you intended.
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