Tips & Advice

It's Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Here are 3 easy steps to keep your home protected

Emma McGowan, 2 October 2020

Use these simple steps to create a safer digital home environment, all year round

October might be most famous for cooling weather and spooky nights, but did you know it’s also Cybersecurity Awareness Month? And this year, with the Covid-19 pandemic pushing more and more of our activities online, it’s especially important to be aware of how protected we really are — and where we could be doing a better job.

In the United States, the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) is recognizing National Cybersecurity Month with the campaign “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.” They’re encouraging all Americans to take proactive steps toward better personal cybersecurity. 

Europe is also recognizing Cybersecurity Month, with their own social media campaigns, online activities, and resources for anyone interested in getting involved this October. (And, as an added bonus, the European materials are in multiple languages, so you can reach your people no matter where they are.)

We wanted to get you started on some simple steps you can take to follow the NCSA’s other slogan for this month: “If You Connect It, Protect It.” Because so many people are currently either unemployed or working from home, we decided to focus on the home front this year. Here are three simple steps you can take to get started protecting your digital home during this year’s Cybersecurity Month.

1. Secure your Wi-Fi router

Your Wi-Fi is the door through which cybercriminals will try to get into your home, so you better make sure it’s airtight. You can do that by changing the login credentials — a.k.a. the username and password — so that they’re impossible to crack. 

This is the time to use that really tricky password with a million different symbols, letters, and numbers in it. Write it down on a piece of paper (not usually advisable, but okay in this instance because you’re protecting against people outside of your house) and tuck it away for future reference. Even better, store inside a secure password manager, where you can be sure it’s protected.

Think about it this way: You wouldn’t “secure” your front door with a hook lock, would you? Of course not! It would be too easy to break in. In the case of your router, the factory-assigned username and password are the hook lock and your new, complicated credentials are five deadbolts. You want the deadbolts — not the hook.

2. Start using a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) creates an encrypted tunnel through which all of your internet activity flows. It makes it really difficult (or even impossible, depending on the quality of the VPN) for anyone to intercept your data and either spy on or steal from you.  

Depending on your job, you work may have provided you with one. That’s great! Use it every time you’re online. But if your job didn’t provide one, check out Avast Secureline VPN. Either way, you can rest a little bit easier knowing your online activity is protected.

3. Update all of your devices

Cybercriminals work in cyberspace, but they take advantage of human mistakes. One big one? Not updating software. 

Companies put out software patches for a lot of reasons, but a main one is to patch up security holes. If you’re not updating, you’re not protected. (And remember our motto this October? “If You Connect It, Protect It.”) So do a quick scan of all of your devices — computer, tablets, phones, routers, connected toys, IoT devices — and make sure they’re running on the latest version of their software. It’s a little bit tedious, but it’s a lotta bit important. 

Of course, cybersecurity is important all year, not just in October. But these three simple steps will set you up for a safer digital home, all year round.