May 2, 2019

How to become your own cybersecurity expert

At home and at UCalgary, being aware can help prevent cybercrime
Cybersecurity depends on you.

Cybersecurity depends on you.

“There are countless criminal opportunities in the cyber world today and they come with a lot less risk as well as higher potential rewards for the bad guys,” says Richard DeBruyne, IT director of security and architecture at UCalgary, and a UCalgary computer science alum.

“Where we used to have bank robberies and extortion, we now have cyber heists and ransomware. For good or bad, tech is pushing everything we do including our work, our social network and our money into cyber equivalents. The same is true of cybercrime,” DeBruyne adds.

That can never happen to me

Sean Murray, lead IT security operations, says, “Online compromise is much more common than you might think. Every day over six million records globally are compromised as the result of a breach. Of those, 56 per cent are the result of compromised social media alone. If you have an online presence in today’s world, you may have already been compromised.”

While statistics vary depending on the source, what is clear is that identity theft (or fraud) is rising in Canada. Per 100,000 Canadians, pure identity theft incidents have risen from 2.27 in 2010 to 8.9 in 2017. Recovery from this crime can be incredibly challenging, with stolen savings, destroyed credit ratings and years of legal battles facing victims.

Individual responsibility

The truth about cybersecurity is that it depends on you. Like fitness or financial health, cybersecurity should be a part of who you are. You need to think about it and take steps to protect yourself. A large part is simply being educated about what can and is happening. A little preventive effort can go a long way to protect you from a potential cyber nightmare.

How do I become cybersecure?

It is a big question, and sometimes confusing for those who are not tech savvy. “Cybercriminals will try to attack in almost any way a person can think of, so the sheer variety of possibilities is almost overwhelming,” says Murray.

Part of the solution in this hurry-up world is to simply slow down.

  • Take the time to ensure email addresses are correct and owned by who you think they are.
  • Don’t click on a link or an attachment to an email that you aren’t sure is legit.
  • Never share your passwords, and change your passwords frequently — unfortunately today passwords are still the keys to your cyber life — at home and at work.
  • Protect your technology — make sure your personal devices are protected with anti-virus software and a firewall to prevent them from being manipulated by unknown parties.
  • Think before you post — ask yourself if that information is a piece of the puzzle someone needs to hijack your life — also ask if it might set you apart from the crowd and make you interesting to unscrupulous characters.
  • Don’t be social engineered — this is the number one way people are compromised — be wary about what is being asked of you and that the bad guys play heavily on trickery and the exploitation of trust.

DeBruyne suggests, “Open your eyes, and become your own cybersecurity expert, self-aware and self-protective. Take care of your security just like you take care of everything else in your life — learn to be secure and protect your world.”

Find out more about IT security.