October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. This year’s overarching message for the month – Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT. – focuses on personal privacy, consumer devices, and e-commerce security. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) understands how important it is to keep your data private and your mobile technology secure and much of our research and development (R&D) efforts focus on these topics.
S&T supports a full spectrum of cybersecurity R&D to assist DHS component operations, critical infrastructure protections including the finance, energy, public utility sectors, and first responders. What does that mean for you? It means that our R&D efforts are finding new and better ways to keep data secure from hackers. By passing this information and technology on to groups like first responders, banks, DHS Components, or utility companies, they are better equipped to keep your information secure. Here are some tips for everyday things you can do to aid in this effort.
Consider changing your password (PDF, 409 KB, 1 page) to something longer and more random. Every account and device you have should have a different password. One great option is using a random password generator to create a truly random password. We recommend using multi-factor authentication for all accounts to ensure you are the only person that has access. S&T worked with mobility working groups and federal interagency working groups to create the Mobile Device Security project to address this topic. One of the R&D initiatives that came from this group is continuous multi-factor authentication (PDF, 527 KB, 1 page).
Limit your personal information on social media (PDF, 416 KB, 1 page) and watch out for bots (PDF, 399 KB, 1 page). Addresses, your favorite coffee shop, and when you will be out of town are all things a hacker can use to try and target you or your loved ones. It goes without saying that putting your account numbers and social security number on social media is a big no-no. S&T’s Data Privacy project works to develop, test, and evaluate technical and knowledge solutions for the management of privacy threats.
Do you know what apps (PDF, 313 KB, 1 page) are running in the background of your device? Some could be gathering your personal information without your knowledge. It only takes a couple of minutes to look through your app permissions. Disable, give the least amount of privilege or delete what you don’t need or are not currently using. It is okay to say “no” when an app requests a privilege that doesn’t make sense. The amount of data and personal information stored in apps make them a prime target for hackers. S&T has started the Mobile Application Security R&D project that seeks to automate and incorporate-security-by-design into a series of security tools for mobile apps.
This October S&T will be focusing our social media efforts to bringing awareness and tips on keeping you and your families, communities, and businesses cyber secure. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to follow along on our social media channels.