Emily Huffman

October 14, 2020

October Is Cyber Security Month

October Is Cyber Security Month!


Halloween isn’t the only thing that can scare you this October. It’s Cyber Security Month, and that means it’s time to talk about some of the scams and digital risks that make your personal information and financial accounts vulnerable to attack. But never fear! We’re here to empower you with strategies to help you protect yourself.




What it is:
“Phishing” is the name for scams wherein fraudulent emails are designed to spread malware and/or trick the recipient into giving personal information such as usernames or passwords.

A few other definitions worth mentioning: “vishing” is phishing that happens via telephone call; “smishing” happens via text. “Spearphishing” is when criminals go to greater lengths to learn more about their target, so their scams are more convincing.


How it works:
Most often, phishing involves a fake email that contains a link to a legitimate-looking (but fake) site that then asks for personal information. Sometimes a phishing attack employs an attachment designed to tempt the recipient into clicking it. Upon opening, the attachment launches a software program that will access and cause damage to the recipient’s system.


How to protect yourself:
You should be immediately wary of any requests that ask for sensitive or personal information such as your passwords, social security number, or account numbers, whether it’s over email or over the phone.

Never click on links or attachments unless you’re totally sure they’re safe. An email that comes to you seemingly “out of the blue” or that contains old logos or spelling errors should raise immediate flags. If you’re unsure, contact the source directly by sending them a separate email—never hit “Reply” on a suspicious email—and ask them to confirm they actually sent it. If you think an email from a business might actually be legitimate, but aren’t totally sure, you can always go directly to their site to check on your account or contact their customer support for assistance.




What it is:
“Ransomware” occurs when a hacker gains access to your data and holds it ransom until you pay to have it returned to you.


How it works:
Ransomware most often infects your system through fake emails from sources you already know. The emails contain links or attachments that launch the attack once you click on them. Once activated, ransomware can spread across an entire network of computers.


How to protect yourself:
Follow all the advice in our Phishing section in addition to making sure you maintain updated antivirus software. You should regularly back up your files for countless reasons but being able to shut down a criminal’s demand for ransom is a particularly satisfying one.




What it is:
Password cracking happens when criminals learn your password(s) and gain access to private accounts or information.


How it works:
Cracking can either happen in a public place where someone may be deliberately spying for that information, or in the digital world where easy-to-guess passwords can be quickly figured out (i.e. “mypassword”). Criminals can also use phishing to lure you into compromising your passwords.


How to protect yourself:
Never keep your passwords written down in plain view. A better way to keep track of them is to use a password manager; doing a quick online search will give you many options.


When you create a password make sure it has a significant level of complexity. Here are some ideas for creating a strong password:


  • Use at least 12 characters; often a phrase is better than a single word
  • Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Replace letters with characters, i.e. “!” in place of “i”
  • Never use the same password for more than one account
  • Here’s an example of a strong password: rain!nGcats+dougs


Remember, no legitimate business will ever ask you to share your password. Always keep it a secret between you and yourself.


Now that you’re armed with information to ward off nefarious cyberattacks, we’re sure you’ll enjoy more treats than tricks during October’s Cyber Security Month. Stay safe, everyone!