October is Cyber Security Awareness Month

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The start of October marked the beginning of National Cyber Security Awareness month. Everyone has gotten their fair share of spam emails and annoying pop-ups while browsing the web and while mostly harmless, there is a real threat out there. As the world becomes increasingly dependent upon the internet, the topic of cyber security is extremely relevant. It is important to realize that technological convenience comes with a price; in a world where all of your personal data is often saved on servers and databases we must be increasingly careful to keep our information secure.

For the victim, passwords can often be the pitfall of a cyber-attack. Let’s face it, when you have multiple email accounts, with each email account belonging to the e-mailing list of several websites, forums, and stores etc., you would have to be something of a human rolodex to have unique passwords for every single one. Despite the advice of security professionals, most people aren’t sitting down twice a year to change the passwords of potentially dozens of accounts. The unfortunate truth is that a large percentage of people have the same or similar passwords for many of their accounts. Hackers will prey upon this fact and is often how your sensitive information could be breached without you being directly involved.

Here’s how it could happen: let’s say for example you have an account with one of your favorite forums, discussion board, or any website that you like. Now imagine the database for that site is breached and all of the emails and passwords are leaked. This happens quite often in this day and age, especially with smaller, unprotected databases. On the surface it is not a big deal if someone gains access to your “Fine Anime Weekly” account; however, couple this with the fact that people are inclined to use the same password for multiple accounts and the threat becomes tangible. Serious damage could be done if a hacker successfully tries to log in to an account that contains your sensitive information whether that be your University or Amazon account. Furthermore, if this password gives the hacker access to your email account itself, all of your accounts linked to that email are at risk.

So it’s pretty much hopeless right? It’s just a matter of time before your information is breached by an unauthorized person. Not quite; Well equipped servers/databases such as Google’s do offer two-step authorization systems where you might have to supply a code that is sent to your phone via text message for example, but this is not an industry standard. NJIT helps to defend you from these attacks by making your AFS password expire every four months as well. Cyber security should be thought of in the same way as physical security. There is always a potential for your property to be stolen but locking your door and being aware of your
surroundings makes it far less likely. Having the same un-changed passwords for your accounts is the physical equivalent of using the same key for all of your locks. Manageable cyber-security solution: Use unique passwords for all important accounts and change them periodically. It is also import to be critically wary of emails containing downloadable attachments. Make sure they are coming from a legitimate source before downloading files or following links.

Be conscious of cyber-attacks and realize that in today’s technology dependent world, cyber threats may not be as obvious as a Ugandan prince promising a small fortune in exchange for your banking information.

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Ryan Romanowski

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