Cybersecurity and protecting your data
When was the last time you changed your password?
The first Thursday of every May is “World Password Day” and is a great reminder for all of us to be more vigilant with protecting our data.
You don’t have to look very far to see how devastating a cyber attack can be. Another Canadian university recently fell victim to a cybersecurity breach that compromised several of its servers and workstations. The attack resulted in a disruption to their internet connection and many online programs. It has yet to be reported whether personal data was compromised, but in response, the university asked that learners and team members all change their affiliated passwords.
What does that cybersecurity issue have to do with Athabasca University (AU)?
Previous cybersecurity breaches have indicated that cyber criminals hone their skills to specific industry sectors. Once a breach is made on one organization within an industry, the criminals proceed with attacks on similar organizations to capitalize on their efforts. It appears the industry being targeted is post-secondary institutions. Heightening your awareness of what to watch out for and what preventative measures can be taken by you is encouraged as a best practice to combat security breaches.
Why do these cyber attacks happen?
It won’t come as any surprise that the key motivators for cybersecurity attacks are to obtain personal data for financial gain and espionage. In order to access your information, cyber criminals send phishing emails that contain infected links or attachments which, if opened, could breach your network. Many of these messages contain urgent calls to action and are meant to cause panicked reactions which lead to cyber attacks. Once a device is compromised, it can be used to infect other devices on the same network such as: computers, tablets, or cell phones.
Learn how to better protect yourself with tips from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
How will changing my password help?
It seems too easy of a fix, doesn’t it?
But, other than firewalls, passwords are the most effective way to protect your personal accounts and data. Changing passwords frequently can provide a virtual barrier between a cyber criminal and yourself, making hacking you a much more difficult task.
The strength of your password is also important. Most passwords require a mandatory combination of: eight letters, punctuation, and numbers. Tricks such as mixing pet names with city names are helpful with increasing the robustness of your passwords.
Changing passwords regularly can be daunting, but creating themes for them can take away the anxiety of remembering what your new passwords are, and provide an added incentive to update them more frequently.
It is also important to note that using a different password for different accounts and devices is wise. Repeated use of a password leaves you more vulnerable for cybersecurity breaches.
Where can I learn more about cybersecurity?
All AU learners and team members have access to our cybersecurity page. It’s a curated and dedicated resource AU’s cybersecurity and IT team put together to help us be more prepared and protected.
Another great resource is the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and the Government of Canada’s page on why you need a strong password to be cyber secure.