‘Stay one step ahead’ with cybersecurity

Photo courtesy Matrix Integration


JASPER — About 40 people crowded into the Jasper Train Depot Thursday for a crash course in cybersecurity from Chris Martin, a security specialist with Matrix Integration.

During the hourlong presentation, Martin talked about several ways everyone can protect themselves from cyber threats, including how to make strong passwords, how to recognize spam emails and how to be safe when using public Wi-Fi networks.

Regardless of how hackers access information, Martin said, most of the time they want personal information to sell on the dark web, which Martin described as an Amazon or eBay for criminals.

“At the end of the day, most of these people are the actors that would have been the con artists in the day before technology,” Martin said.

Martin suggested a five-step plan to deal with cyber threats: identify online assets, take steps to protect those assets, detect incidents, have and implement a response plan and return to normal operations.

Most of the presentation focused on the second step: protection. For personal internet security, part of protection is passwords to protect your identity. More often now, Martin said, websites are requiring more than just a password to gain access to their sites. They may ask for a code that is sent to mobile phones or emails, or they may include security questions in the log-in process. That process is called muli-factor authentication, which combines something you know such as your password with something you have such as the passcode sent to your phone. The process is meant to go beyond what hackers can steal now that computer programs can crack passwords.

Martin’s other tips for log-in security included: making passwords longer and including a mixture of numbers, special characters and capitalized letters; using pass phrases such as “ilikedogs” instead of passwords; and having a different password for every site. The last tip is especially important, Martin said, because one of the sites you use will inevitably be hacked, putting you at risk on all the other sites as well if you don’t have different passwords.

For email, Martin reminded attendees not to open emails from people or places they don’t recognize. Also, if there’s an attachment on an email from someone that usually doesn’t sent attachments, check with the sender before clicking on the attachment.

Martin also showed attendees how to recognize fake emails. Scammers, he said, will try to mimic emails from popular sites such as Amazon to entice people to click on harmful links. The first thing to do, Martin said, is to mouse over the sender name in the email to see if it’s a legitimate email. In his example of a fake Amazon email, the sender had an Italian email address. Another trick is to mouse over the links in the email and see if they lead where they say they will.

“The name of the game is slow down, be aware and know what you’re clicking on,” Martin said.

Martin also briefly talked about how to add security when using public Wi-Fi networks, such as the ones in airports and coffeehouses. Such connections tend to be easier to hack than private networks, Martin said, because anyone can access the connection.

The best practice, he said, is to avoid accessing sensitive information such as bank accounts over such a connection. If you have to, though, he suggested setting up a virtual private network, or VPN. A VPN adds a layer of security to a connection to a public network that makes the connection more exclusive, like a private connection would be.

Martin also suggested having some kind of security program set up on your personal devices and using the program to its fullest potential, including identity theft and dark web search functions.

“Be aware of what’s out there to protect you, ask the right questions and take advantage of it,” he said.

Martin reminded attendees that no security measure is bulletproof. Technology is constantly changing, so hackers are constantly finding new ways to get around security measures. The key, he said, is trying to stay one step ahead.

“Everybody’s going to get caught at one point or another,” Martin said. “But if you go through life with blinders on, you’re going to continue to be a victim and be wondering why you’re a victim.”

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