Help Others Be “Cyber Aware” This Festive Season—And All Year Round!

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Help Others Be

Are you tired of being the cybersecurity help desk for everyone you know? Are you frustrated with spending all your time securing your corporate environment, only to have to deal with the threat that snuck in through naive end-users? Are you new to security and wondering how you ended up here? This blog is for you!

Introducing the Cyber Aware Campaign

Every year, November and December tend to be awash with media articles sharing tips for “safe” online shopping, particularly around Cyber Monday. This has been compounded in 2020, a year characterized in cybersecurity by increased remote working, reliance on online and delivery services, and COVID-19-themed scams and attacks. Many have viewed 2020 as a hacker’s playground.

It’s in this setting then that the U.K. government has relaunched its Cyber Aware campaign to help internet citizens navigate the rocky shores of defending their digital lives. The campaign—which features TV, radio, and print ads, as well as various (virtual) events—offers six practical and actionable tips for helping people protect themselves online.

The tips are designed to be applicable to the broadest audience possible. They are not necessarily the most sophisticated security best practices, but rather (and very intentionally), they are fairly basic and applicable to a wide range of people. The list has been devised as the result of considerable development and testing: The U.K. government not only sought input from security experts, but also from nonprofits and civil society groups representing various constituent groups. This helped them ensure the tips would be practical for everyone from your granny to your favorite athlete (maybe they are the same person).

As with enterprise security, there is regrettably no silver bullet for personal security, so these tips will not make people completely invulnerable. However, they do focus on steps that are manageable and will meaningfully reduce risk exposure for individuals. The U.K. government has focused on finding a balance between being thorough and not alienating people from making the effort, hence settling on just six tips. Naturally, we prefer things that come in sevens, but this is a decent start. 😉

The tips

Four of the six tips focus on passwords and identity access management. This seems like a good choice; it’s extremely hard to change behavior such that people stop sharing personal information or clicking on links, but if you can make it harder for attackers to access accounts, that’s a good step toward meaningfully reducing risk.

So, let’s take a look at the actual tips…

  1. Use a strong and separate password for your email
  2. Create strong passwords using three random words
  3. Save your passwords in your browser
  4. Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA)
  5. Update your devices
  6. Back up your data

We recommend clicking on the links and taking a look at the full guidance. Or, for more information on the tips, how they were developed, and what the Cyber Aware campaign entails, check out this Security Nation podcast interview with the delightful Cub Llewelyn-Davies of the UK National Cyber Security Centre.

As a starting point or personal security baseline, this is a very decent list, and we hope it will have a meaningful impact in encouraging individuals to make a few small changes to protect themselves online.  

As overzealous security enthusiasts, though, we had to take it one step further. We’ve created a free personal security guide of our own that starts with the Cyber Aware steps, then offers additional advice for those that want to go further. We know that for the vast majority of internet users, even six steps feels like too many, but we also hold out hope that many people may be inspired to dig deeper or may just have more specific circumstances they need help with.

You can download the guide for free here. Maybe include it with your holiday cards this year—personal security is the gift that keeps on giving!

Why should you care about this?

If you are reading the Rapid7 blog, the chances are that you already think about security and are almost certainly taking these steps or some appropriate alternative to them (if only more websites accepted 50-character passwords, eh?). Nonetheless, even if you are a security professional, the need to educate others likely affects you. Maybe it’s because you’re sick of constantly being asked for security tips or assistance by family and friends. Maybe you just can’t handle reading more headlines about security incidents that could have been avoided with some basic personal security hygiene. Maybe you’re worried that no matter how diligently you work to protect your corporate environment, an attacker will gain a foothold through an unwitting end-user with access to your systems.

The point is that we are all engaging in the internet together. A better informed internet citizenry is one that makes the job of attackers slightly harder, reducing the potential opportunities for attackers and raising the bar of entry into the cybercrime economy. It’s not a revolution or that ever-elusive silver bullet that will save us all, but increasing even the basic security level of all internet citizens creates a more secure ecosystem for everyone. As security professionals, we should be highly invested in seeing that become a reality, so send the guide or Cyber Aware web page to your less security-savvy friends, family, and/or users today.

Help them become more Cyber Aware, and help create a safer internet for us all.

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