While National Cybersecurity Awareness Month typically focuses on improving cyber awareness for businesses and government agencies, there is definitely a consumer aspect we should all recognize as well.
The “Interwebs” is a vast knowledgebase of information, fake news, entertainment, and commerce. For the most part, it is unregulated. And there are definitely some things you can do to draw unnecessary, negative attention to yourself.
To that end, here are my top-10 recommendations for behaviors to avoid while as a consumer (or just a person) on the Internet.
- Mislabel pictures with trending hashtags just to get hits, or mispresent a tweet. The replies and comments can be vicious.
- Post a picture of yourself with a sign saying, “Roast Me.” Some of the most vile creatures that swarm the web will reply and the comments hurt worse than you ever expected.
- Post compromising pictures from parties, events, or even nudes, and tag yourself. Posts to the web may last forever, and a future spouse, child, or employer can easily find them. It can cost you your livelihood.
- Share your credentials or password with a friend, family, coworker, or share openly (like for a Netflix account). Shared credentials are the number one method threat actors leverage to compromise an account. The more people that know your password, the more likely your account(s) will be compromised, and the more likely you could become a victim of identity theft.
- Click on banner ads, websites, and emails that claim you have won a prize. These are almost always a scam, and they will often try to install malware on your computer or phish for more information. Absolutely do not click on them. If they will not close, use Task Manager or force-quit to kill the browser session.
- Download pictures or click on links in junk email. Junk email is the worst. These types of messages may claim you have won a prize or have money in a foreign account. Sometimes, they may even appear to be from an old friend. The email could even promise elicit escapades. While they are all junk, once in awhile, they will show up in our inboxes. Just delete them. Do not download the pictures that require an extra click, and definitely do not try to hit the unsubscribe button. You will really not unsubscribe—but what you actually did was validate your email address with the scammer or bot. Unfortunately, this will cause them to potentially send you more junk until you fall for one and get owned.
- Log on to your bank or other sensitive account from a public computer in a hotel or library. The cyber hygiene is very questionable and represents an easy attack vector for a malicious actor to gather information via implanted malware, or even a hardware keystroke logging dongle. And yes, this does happen even in name-brand, chain hotels.
- Post under the influence. What seemed funny at one moment may not be the next day. Reference recommendation #3. And remember, just because you can capture it on your phone does not give you the rights to post it. This includes criminal activity and even some concerts.
- Treat Wikipedia as a reliable source. While Wikipedia is an amazing source of user-driven encyclopedia style information, the contents may not be accurate or vetted correctly. Always read it with the basic awareness it could be wrong, and if you are a student, you are probably aware it cannot (or at least should not) be used as references for your papers. Just because you read it on the web does not mean it is true. After all, I am not John Titor despite what some people have incorrectly posited and posted.
- Illegally download content. Just because you can download a movie or music from the web does not make it legal. Yes, people have terabytes of stored movies from previous downloads, but that does not mean they have the rights to store them or play them. It is stealing, and if you are caught the penalties are quite severe. For nominal fees, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. contain the vast majority of all modern content. Stay legal and use a legitimate service for your viewing pleasure. This includes any adult-only content that might even be illegal based on state or region of the world.
While this is a simple top-10 list, National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is more than just recommendations for organizations and the public sector. Consumers play a large part of the transactions, knowledge, and incidents affecting the web. We should all be aware of the threats and, poor judgment, and behavior that can get us in a lot of trouble.
Morey J. Haber, Chief Security Officer, BeyondTrust
Morey J. Haber is the Chief Security Officer at BeyondTrust. He has more than 25 years of IT industry experience and has authored three books: Privileged Attack Vectors, Asset Attack Vectors, and Identity Attack Vectors. He is a founding member of the industry group Transparency in Cyber, and in 2020 was elected to the Identity Defined Security Alliance (IDSA) Executive Advisory Board. Morey currently oversees BeyondTrust security and governance for corporate and cloud based solutions and regularly consults for global periodicals and media. He originally joined BeyondTrust in 2012 as a part of the eEye Digital Security acquisition where he served as a Product Owner and Solutions Engineer since 2004. Prior to eEye, he was Beta Development Manager for Computer Associates, Inc. He began his career as Reliability and Maintainability Engineer for a government contractor building flight and training simulators. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.