Cybersecurity Awareness Month: If You Connect It, Protect It

This week marks the beginning of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency’s (CISA) Cyber Security Awareness Month. In observation of this event, we’ll have a weekly post covering a range of cybersecurity topics to help end users, MSPs, systems integrators, and IT providers get their device security up to snuff.This week’s focus: If You Connect It, Protect It.

Protecting All of Your Connected Devices

According to CISA, there are 4.8 billion internet users. That’s 62% of the global population! Today’s world is hyper-connected, and every connected device is vulnerable, whether it’s in the office or at home. And, with so many employees working remotely for an indefinite period, work, personal, and private data is co-mingling across devices. Someone might store work data on a personal laptop or personal data on a work smartphone—the lines are blurred. That makes it all the more important to ensure that connected devices are protected from data breaches, ransomware, and other cyber-troubles. We’ve listed most of the devices you need to keep secure below. Next, we’ll talk about the actions you can take to protect them.

Consumer Devices

You might have several of these devices with you right now, and you might have even more at home. They could all be susceptible to attack:
  • Smartphones and tablets
  • Thermostats
  • Connected speakers/home assistants
  • Vehicles
  • Gaming consoles
  • Home printers
  • Connected medical equipment
  • Smartwatches
  • Smart fridges
  • Smart televisions

Professional Devices

Businesses of all types have connected devices these days. Even this farmer uploads her planting data to the cloud in real-time while she drives her John Deere tractor. In the professional category, you have devices like:
  • Desktops and laptops
  • Servers
  • Company smartphones and tablets
  • Wi-fi routers
  • Home office worker devices
  • Remote or branch office devices
  • Medical equipment
  • Tractors, trucks, and other equipment
  • 3D printers
  • CNC machines
  • And many more

Take Action on Cybersecurity Today

That’s a lot of devices. So, what actions can you take to keep all of them protected?

Keep Everything up to Date

As annoying as it may be, your devices are updated frequently. While that may make it tempting to put updates off, making updates as soon as they are available is smart. Many of these updates include security patches that help keep your devices safe. Keeping apps, operating systems, device firmware, and other software up to date is one of the first steps you can take to keep connected devices secure.

Set up Antivirus and Antimalware Software

Your home Alexa device probably doesn’t have an antivirus app for it. Your laptop, smartphone, and tablet certainly do. If there’s an antivirus and antimalware app available for the device, it’s a good idea to use it. Be sure to research reputable software providers.

Spam Filters and Firewalls

Some email clients have spam filters built in, which may offer the protection you need. In some cases, you may wish to install a more sophisticated spam filter for extra protection. As for firewalls, some operating systems have firewalls built in. Check the network settings on your device to see if you have the option to set up a firewall to help you browse online more safely.

Set Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policies

As we’ve noted, the co-mingling of data across devices can be a nightmare for admins trying to keep business data safe. Be sure to create BYOD policies so workers at headquarters, at home, and at branch locations are clear on what behaviors are acceptable.

Take Frequent Data Backups

To protect devices from ransomware or hardware failure, it’s wise to back up data. Many smartphones have a built-in cloud backup option, which is typically sufficient in most cases. Check your device to make sure it’s turned on and working. Note that desktops and laptops don’t usually have software that provides continuous data protection. For these, it’s helpful to use solutions from StorageCraft that make it easy to continuously protect your data. You can probably skip the backups for your smart fridge.

Update Privacy Settings

Smartphone users, in particular, may not realize how much information they’re handing over to their favorite app. For all connected devices, check and adjust the privacy settings at the operating system level and in individual apps. You may be inadvertently sharing location data, website browsing data, and other private information you’d rather keep to yourself.

Building Better Security Habits

Try to develop good security habits for setting up and using connected devices. Our list above is extensive, but good habits make things easy. If you always keep security top of mind, it will become second nature to keep all your connected devices secure. In our next post for Cybersecurity Month, we’ll focus on securing devices at home and at work.

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