October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. To mark it, we’re sharing some of the most common cybersecurity and online safety questions that adults and parents ask during TELUS Wise workshops.
1: Are password managers safe?
Yes. Password managers are safe to use and a great way to help you set strong passwords, remember them and keep them protected. Why are password managers so secure? They rely on encryption, which means that your saved passwords are encrypted before they leave your device. Choosing a secure master password to access your vault is the key to effective use. Many password managers also offer value-added features including password change reminders and dark web monitoring to see if any of your logins appear online. Learn about different types of password managers and the top three options in this article.
2: How can I block scam calls?
If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls that you receive on your home or cell phone, you can register your number(s) on the National Do Not Call List (DNCL). The site allows you to register your number, check your registration and file a complaint if required. In addition to the DNCL, TELUS and most major carriers across Canada offer options to safeguard against unsolicited or illegitimate calls. The CRTC lists them here.
3: How can I stay safe while traveling?
It may seem like an odd question today, considering most of us having been staying put in 2020, but some people are starting to consider travelling again. Some actions to consider before you travel and during your trip, include:
- Update security software, web browsers and operating systems (enable automatic updates, if possible)
- Back up critical information
- Employ multi-factor authentication for email, banking and social media
- Disable network auto-connect, so you only connect to trusted devices/networks
- Only connect to legitimate networks or hot spots and limit any sensitive activity (e.g. banking)
- Physically secure your devices in public places, so they can’t be stolen (even in hotel rooms or AirBnb’s)
Read more tips for protecting your online security and privacy while travelling in this TELUS Wise article.
4: How can I secure my IoT devices, and is it safe to use a digital voice assistant in my home?
We are surrounded by machines that talk to other machines and that connect to the Internet. These include cars, appliances, fitness trackers, lighting, home security and digital personal assistants. But all of these machines also store a lot of personal information, which comes with some risk, especially if users don’t take steps to protect their privacy. How can you mitigate the risk? First, make sure to change the default password to a unique, strong password. Many connected devices are also supported by a mobile app. Check your device and app permissions so apps aren’t running in the background unnecessarily. When downloading apps, make sure they come from trusted vendors and sources. You may also want to consider having a separate, dedicated network for your IoT devices.
If you’re using a digital assistant in your home, know that the device is always listening. Strong passwords, Wi-Fi encryption and being aware of who has physical access to your device are baseline security. Other strategies include:
- Mute the device when you aren’t using it to avoid accidental recordings
- Periodically review and erase any stored recordings using the app or via a voice command (for example, “Alexa delete everything I said today.”) If it gives you the option (as is the case with Google Home), you may want to enable the ‘delete automatically’ feature so it’s not a manual process
- Adjust your privacy settings so that you opt out of letting third parties access and listen to your recordings
5: What is multi-factor authentication?
Multi-factor authentication (also known as two-factor authentication) is an added layer of protection, on top of your traditional username and password. Most popular web sites, including Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Google, offer the option of enabling multi-factor authentication. Here’s how it works:
- You log in using your username and password
- An authentication code is sent to an email address or phone number you provide
- The authentication code acts as a secondary password and allows you to access the website or app
This extra step used to authenticate your identity helps to protect your privacy because it is unlikely that a hacker would have access to both your password and physical device.
6: Is it safe to use my credit card online, and what is e-skimming?
Typically it is safe to use your credit card online, as long as you are dealing with a trusted retailer that takes security seriously and you’re shopping while using a secure network (like your home internet connection). Even with best security, hackers will still try to innovate maliciously. E-skimming is one of those more recent innovations. With this newer malware version (also known as Magecart), hackers have figured out how to take advantage of vulnerabilities in a website’s e-commerce platform. The malicious code captures purchasers’ data as they enter it in real time (such as name, address, log in credentials, credit card information, account numbers etc.). The data is then sent to a domain controlled by the hacker, and the credit card information is sold or used for fraudulent purchases. It is hard for consumers to detect the presence of e-skimming. Some security recommendations include:
- Monitor credit/debit cards statements for unusual activity and report anything suspicious
- Use a credit card instead of a debit card, as it is easier to report fraud
- Use a credit card with a smaller credit limit, reserved only for online transactions
- Set up and be mindful of fraud alerts
- Employ two-factor authentication when possible
- Check out as a guest if you can, and do not save your credit card information for future purchases. If an account is required, create unique, strong passwords for each site you visit and buy from
As Cybersecurity month draws to a close, we invite you to reflect on the actions you take (or should take) to keep yourself and your data safe. By understanding your vulnerabilities, incorporating simple actions into your daily behaviour online and taking advantage of solutions available to you, you can stay safe in our digital world.
To continue your education about staying safe in our digital world, take the TELUS Wise online workshop for adults: Empowering you to stay safe in our digital world.