Editorial – When online, be cyber savvy

Mac Olsen

February 5 was Safer Internet Day and I came across an interesting article at CTVNews.ca about improving your online access. The article, by Amanda Coletta, emphasizes that despite high-profile data breaches, many online users are not doing enough to protect themselves from malware, viruses, etc.

“Some Canadians will readily admit to their lackadaisical approach to cybersecurity. According to a Google Consumer Survey, 20 per cent of Canadians give themselves a failing grade when it comes to their internet hygiene. The internet has become such an ingrained part of our lives these days and because the Internet and browsers now function in such a seamless way, a lot of the friction is gone,” Aaron Brindle, the head of communications for Google Canada, told CTVNews.ca.

Advances in combatting malware attacks, he added, have lured internet users into a “false sense of security.” The article offers tips on how to better protect yourself – install software updates, use multiple strong and unique passwords, turn on two-factor authentication, and watch out for spear phishing attempts.

In 1999, a virus hit a critical operating system function on my notebook computer, preventing me from conducting routine operations on it. I’m sure that I had anti-virus software on my computer, but it didn’t stop that attack. It took me two days to restore my computer from backups and since then I’ve always been vigilant about keeping my anti-virus software up to date.

That includes checking daily on the website for updates, and occasionally I perform a thorough check of the entire hard drive by running a system scan. These are measures that all children and families should employ on their computers, smartphones and tablets.

Another function you should consider is a Virtual Private Network, which can keep your IP address from being tracked by others. I use that on my smartphone and tablet. You can also use a VPN on your Xbox, PlayStation or other gaming device.

Ransonware is menacing as well, because it can lock you out of your computer operations and online/cloud backup services.

This may seem like an extraordinary measure, but if you are subject to that threat, then you might be better off just erasing and reformatting your hard drive and restoring all your software and files to it. As for your online/cloud backup services, inform your provider(s) and get them to delete your accounts and access and request new accounts, passwords, etc. Don’t be held hostage to this form of cyber crime, which I also call cyber-terrorism. Stand up to the criminal(s) and don’t give in to their demands or blackmail.

Backing up your data is always a good practice, of course, and not just through a cloud service. If you use this service, then also use an alternative cloud service in case your primary one is compromised. Moreover, use external terabyte drives and put them in safe places, to prevent them from being destroyed by fire or natural disaster.

This redundancy can be tedious, especially if frequent backup is required, but save yourself a lot of grief by getting into the discipline of backing up your data.

In a world of sophisticated computer virus and other cyber crimes, it’s up to each person to ensure that they do their best to protect themselves from it. Use every available tool to protect yourself.


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