For the past 18 years in October, businesses and companies across the U.S. recognize and address possible cybersecurity vulnerabilities during Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Awareness and advocacy groups, such as the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) create and publish many resources designed to promote consumer habits that reinforce personal safety and security.
Cybercriminals have been using phishing attacks, malware and ransomware to profit from unsuspecting victims for over a decade. In 2020, the average requested fee from a ransomware attack increased from about $5,000 in 2018 to nearly $200,000. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), phishing attacks have increased from 19,465 complaints in 2016 to over 240,000 in 2020.
According to IC3’s 2020 Internet Crime Report, more than 38,000 people were a victim of cybercrime in Texas, placing the Lone Star state third in the nation behind California and Florida in the number of people affected. Total victim loss within the state was reported at more than $310 million, once again, placing Texas third in the nation behind California and New York. Approximately 1-in-5 Americans (21%) have experienced a ransomware attack on their personal or work computers.
To encourage individuals to take cybersecurity seriously and stress the importance of taking proactive steps to enhance personal safety, NCSA and CISA will focus on four main areas of cybersecurity awareness through the month of October
• Week of October 4 (Week 1): Be Cyber Smart.
• Week of October 11 (Week 2): Fight the Phish!
• Week of October 18 (Week 3): Explore. Experience. Share.
• Week of October 25 (Week 4): Cybersecurity First.
To promote and reinforce safe cybersecurity habits, BBB offers the following tips and resources:
Browser privacy. Many websites use files, called cookies, to personalize user experiences and provide targeted ads. Website browsers, such as Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Microsoft Edge, give their users the ability to adjust their privacy settings and delete or manage cookies. Changes made on one device do not carry over to other devices, so make sure to adjust these settings on any device you use to access the internet.
Smartphone privacy. Most mobile devices allow users to control whether they receive targeted ads based on app usage and browsing activity. Settings include: resetting advertising identifiers, tracking control, location control and ad personalization. Toggling these settings will change the permissions of apps and browsers used on a mobile device. Additionally, the Digital Advertising Alliance and the Network Advertising Initiative have free opt-out tools available to consumers who wish to stop receiving targeted advertisements. Learn more about adjusting privacy settings for your devices at FTC.gov.
Protect your device. Download and maintain up-to-date security software to prevent malware from infecting your device. Along with computers, other web-enabled devices also need protection from viruses and malware, such as smartphones and gaming systems. Make sure to use security software to scan for viruses on any external device, such as a USB flash drive, before downloading data to your hard drive.
Exercise good cybersecurity habits. Become familiar with the five-step approach to cybersecurity: identify, protect, detect, respond and recover. Be cautious when interacting with links received through email or social media and make it a habit to check for the ‘lock’ icon in a website address that indicates it is a secured system before making an online purchase. Protect your most vital accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Read more on how to safeguard your home from cybersecurity threats on BBB.org.
For additional resources on how businesses can practice safe internet habits, visit BBB.org/Cybersecurity.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2020, people turned to BBB more than 220 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at BBB.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico.