October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. In 2020, reported cyberattacks increased sharply, likely due to human error, according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Technology does what we humans tell it to do or not to do. The power to control what is shared and what can be accessed online is in our hands. Therefore, it is important for us to be aware of what we can do to help promote safe online behavior and practices for us to keep information secure.

The following is some information from Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) campaign “Stop. Think. Connect.”

• Keep security software current: Using the latest security software, web browser and operating system is the best defense against viruses, malware and other online threats.

• Plug and scan: USBs and other external devices can be infected by viruses and malware. Use your security software to scan them.

• When in doubt, throw it out: Links in emails, social media posts and online advertising are often how cybercriminals try to steal your personal information. Even if you know the source, if something looks suspicious, delete it.

• Protect your $$: When banking and shopping, check to be sure the site is security enabled. Look for web addresses that begin with “https://” which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. Sites with “http://” addresses may not be secure (notice it is missing the “s”).

• Stay current. Keep pace with new ways to stay safe online: Check trusted websites for the latest information, and share with friends, family and colleagues and encourage them to be web wise.

• Think before you act: Be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately, offer something that sounds too good to be true or ask for personal information.

• Back it up: Protect your valuable work, music, photos and other digital information by making an electronic copy and storing it safely.

• Personal information is like money. Value it. Protect it: Information about you, such as your purchase history or location, has value — just like money. Be thoughtful about who gets that information and how it’s collected through apps and websites.

• Be aware of what’s being shared: Set the privacy and security settings on web services and devices to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s OK to limit how and with whom you share information.

• Share information with care: Think before posting about yourself and others online. Consider what a post reveals, who might see it and how it could be perceived now and in the future. The online world can feel anonymous, but it’s not. Everything can be traced back.

Online actions still have impacts offline, which is import for children to understand too.

Children can hop on a digital device with ease. As soon as a child starts using a computer, a cell phone or any mobile device, it’s time to talk to them about online behavior, safety and security. Research suggests that when children want important information, most rely on their parents.

If you have a child entering the online world, make sure he or she understands that private information includes the following and should never be shared: full name, age, address, telephone number, email address (or parents’ email addresses), where they go to school or after school and where their parents work.

Discuss why it is important to keep this information private as some people online have bad intentions, including bullies, predators, hackers and scammers. Even in non-pandemic times, socializing online can help kids connect with friends and family members, but it’s important to help a child learn how to navigate these spaces safely.

Three simple rules a child can practice remembering is:

• Always ask your parents first.

• Only talk to people you know.

• Stick to places that are just right for you.

Promoting safer online behavior and practices has the potential to affect everyone at home, at work or around the world. Practicing good online habits benefits the global digital community.

For more information and resources from Stop.Think.Connect. go to bit.ly/3m5B7o0.

Reina Hasting is a coordinator with Extension’s Family Nutrition Program, which is administered by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For questions, she can be contacted at rhhasting@alaska.edu or 907-474-2437.

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