Getting familiar with the cyber basics
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, so take a look at a few tips you can implement to keep yourself safe online.
At a time when we are more connected than ever, being “cyber smart” is of the utmost importance. This year has already seen more than a fair share of cyberattacks and breaches, including the high-profile attacks on the Colonial Pipeline and other critical infrastructure. Furthermore, as underlined by these recent breaches, cyberattacks are becoming more sophisticated with more evolved criminals cropping up each day. Luckily, there are several steps that we can take to mitigate risks and stay one step ahead of these cyberthreats.
Enable multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds that necessary second check to verify your identity when logging in to one of your accounts. By requiring multiple methods of authentication, your account is further protected from being compromised, even if a criminal hijacks your password. In this way, MFAs make it more difficult for password-cracking tools to enable attackers to break into accounts. Also, with MFA enabled, if you get a notification for authorization and were not expecting the request, then you know someone is trying to access your account allowing you to login and change the password.
Use strong passwords and password manager
This may seem obvious, but all too often securing strong passwords is overlooked. People are spending more time online, and that has contributed to more prowling for accounts to attack. Using long, complex and unique passwords is a good way to stop your account from being hacked. With the need for stronger more lengthy passwords, an easy way of keeping track and remembering your passwords is by using a password manager such as LastPass, KeepPass, etc.
Perform software updates
When a device prompts you that it’s time to update the software, it may be tempting to simply click postpone and ignore the message. However, having the latest security software, web browser and operating system on devices is one of the best defenses against online threats. So, don’t wait – update.
Do your research
Common sense is a crucial part of maintaining good online hygiene, and an intuitive step to stay safe online is to do some research before downloading anything new to your device. Before downloading any new app, make sure that it’s safe by checking who created the app, what the user reviews say and if there are any articles published online about the app’s privacy and security features.
Check your settings
Be diligent to double check your privacy and security settings and be aware who can access your documents. This extends from Google docs to Zoom calls and beyond. For meetings on Zoom, for example, create passwords so only those invited to the session can attend, and restrict who can share their screen or files with the rest of the attendees.
Being “cyber smart” and maintaining stellar online hygiene is the best way to protect yourself and others from cyberattacks. No single tip is foolproof but taken together, they can make a real difference for taking control of your online presence. By taking preventive measures and making a habit of practicing online safety, you can exponentially decrease your odds of being hacked – and prevent lost time and money, as well as frustration.
October is Cyber Security Awareness Month
Cyber criminals are out there, and they’re after your information. That’s why the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance, designated October as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM).
The goal of NCSAM is to provide every American with the resources they need to enhance their online safety and security. Let’s face it: In today’s world, the cybersecurity threats facing our nation can seem overwhelming – and downright scary. Cybersecurity, specifically the protection and security of consumer-members’ assets and the nation’s complex, interconnected network of power plants, transmission lines and distribution facilities is a top priority for electric cooperatives and other segments of the electric power industry.
We all have a role to play in ensuring the security of your personal and professional data. Use the tips below to safeguard your computer:
- Keep all software on internet-connected devices – including PCs, tablets and smartphones – up to date to reduce risk of infection from malware.
- Create long passwords that only you will remember, and change them every six months. Remember, a strong password is at least 12 characters long.
- Avoid the use of thumb drives and other portable memory devices.
- Don’t click on weblinks or attached files in emails when you’re not certain of who the sender is.
- Keep pace with new ways to stay safe online. Check trusted websites for the latest information. Share security tips with friends, family and colleagues, and encourage them to be web wise.
We hope you will join us in raising cybersecurity awareness. Use and follow #cyberaware on social media to show and share your support. To learn more about NCSAM, visit www.staysafeonline.org.
When to Call a Professional
The phrase, “call a licensed electrician,” is a common expression when discussing home projects that involve wiring and electricity. This is very important advice to follow because electricity can not only seriously injure you or others, it can also cause damage to your home or create a situation where hazards could occur down the road, such as an electrical fire.
We always suggest the use of a professional when it comes to many of your home’s electrical projects, especially exposed wiring and other electrical hazards. If you’re experiencing the following signs, they could be symptoms of a serious electrical problem and you should contact a qualified, licensed electrician as soon as possible:
- Damaged Circuits: Circuit breakers are integral for managing the safe flow of electricity through your home. These safety measures detect surges in electrical activity and switch off power supplies to protect your appliances. However, circuit breakers can actually deliver harmful shocks to homeowners if they malfunction. If the breakers trip frequently, protect yourself and avoid contact with your circuit breaker. This warning applies for fuse boxes as well.
- Insufficient Outlets: Many homeowners find that their power strips and circuit breakers are always overloaded. This issue may be solved through rewiring or by adding power outlets. Strategic placement of extra outlets can also help homeowners in rooms where power sources always seem out of reach. However, never attempt to install electrical outlets on your own, instead, leave this job to a trained electrician.
And remember, many state and local laws require that a permit be obtained prior to the installation of electrical wiring or devices, and that an inspection be performed to ensure that the work was completed safely and it meets applicable code requirements. If you hire an electrician or contractor to perform work at your home, be sure to confirm that he/she has obtained the appropriate permits, and you should request an inspection once the work is complete.
Safety should always be the foremost concern for anyone who is working on or around electricity. When in doubt, call a professional out.
The Importance of Using a Qualified Electrician
It’s natural to assume that when we walk into a room and flip a switch, the light will instantly illuminate. But what do you do when your lights don’t come on? Most of us would call an electrician, and finding a qualified electrician is important for any electrical job; ranging from the smallest installation of a new light fixture to the complete rewiring of a house.
Working with electricity can be very dangerous and you want to make sure your electrician is experienced and certified for your own safety and the protection of your family. Faulty wiring poses several hazards, especially a potential fire.
Like many other contractors, electricians specialize in a specific field. Some do construction sites, others go out only on service calls and some focus on commercial property work. Electricians who concentrate in remodeling have mastered techniques for wiring existing homes and additions, such as snaking wires through finished walls, assessing the capacity of existing circuits and evaluating whether to install an additional service panel (where the circuit breakers are located) to handle increased power demands.
Although you can assume a certain level of competency when an electrician shows you his/ her state license, there are two levels of proficiency to consider. A master electrician has passed a standardized test and has at least two years of experience. This type of electrician is knowledgeable of the National Electrical Code and its modifications. Areas of expertise lie in planning, designing, installing and maintaining an electrical system for a project. A journeyman electrician is one who has not qualified for a master’s license, but is licensed by the state, and by law cannot design systems but can install wiring and equipment. Some states, including Alabama, require journeymen electricians to work with a master electrician.
For recommended electricians, you can check with your local homebuilders’ association or call (800) 745-4222 or an electrical-supply business in the area. And when you do decide on an electrician, be sure to see a copy of his/her state license and proof of insurance, making sure both are current. In addition, check references concerning previous jobs.
Identifying a qualified electrician to address your specific electrical needs may be difficult, but in the end it is worth the effort – having peace of mind that your family and home are safe.