How to Protect Yourself Against Cyber Attacks

How to Protect Yourself Against Cyber Attacks

There is no denying that modern technology can make our lives more convenient, more efficient and even fun. However, living in this digital world poses some real danger with the threat of cyber attacks.

Protect Yourself with Common Sense

No longer is our cell phone the only "smart" device we own. Now our homes, our cars and most of our daily gadgets are connected to the Internet. This connectivity poses a risk of invasion or destruction. However, the good news is, there are things you can do to protect yourself and your family from hackers or anyone trying to obtain access to your personal information.

  • Make sure your home network is secure and entirely password-protected.
  • Do not use open networks to log in or access any sensitive information. For example, if the coffee shop WiFi has no password, do not log in using your smartphone and do some banking, you will be putting your information at risk.
  • Never open attachments in emails you receive from anyone you do not know or did not expect.
  • Do not click on links within emails.
  • Type web addresses (URLs) in instead of clicking on links.
  • If you receive an email asking you to verify your personal information, do not send anything via email. Contact the bank or company by phone to inquire if it is legitimate or not.
  • Do not share your network passwords or private information with anyone you do not know well and especially if they ask for it by email or phone.
  • Be sure to password-protect all your Internet-connected devices especially tablets and cell phones, which can be lost or stolen.
  • Don't re-use passwords and change them often. Make passwords complicated and store in a password vault.
  • If you feel like something you have received or witnessed is illegal, contact the proper authorities.
  • Keep your computers and other devices up to date with security patches and installed with virus protection.
  • Be aware of spamming techniques or suspicious texts, block the sender and delete them; do not click on any links.
  • Secure your web browser by following these steps.

Tips For Creating Secure Passwords

Generally, people use simple passwords that they can easily remember. This practice is dangerous and makes it easy for a hacker to guess or crack. Instead, use different memory techniques or mnemonic devices to help you remember so you can create more complex passwords that are more difficult for criminals to exploit.

  • Always use a combination of lower and upper case letters, at least one number and a special character.
  • Acronyms for full sentences work well and are easy to remember. For example, say you are a fan of football. You might use the phrase "I love the Patriots" and combine it with your favorite player's lucky number. So a good password would be "IlTp12!" - This way you are creating a difficult password with alternating capitalization, a number and a special character which is very difficult to guess, but easy for you to remember.
  • You may also spell out words using a combination of numbers and symbols. For example the word Treehouse, you could rewrite it like this "Tr3Eh0u53@," to make a very complex password but one you could easily remember.

What to Do If You Are a Victim of a Cyber Attack

Even if you take every precaution, there is still a chance you or a loved one may be a victim of a cyber attack. If this happens, you do have some recourse you can take. Follow the steps below to ensure you are doing all you can to help authorities find and apprehend the culprit.

  • Make sure all your devices have the most current version of software, security patches, and virus protection updates.
  • Scan your system often to look for any infections and clean them regularly.
  • If you think your device has been compromised, immediately disconnected it from the Internet.
  • Report the incident directly, and if infected, you can do a full system restore to eliminate the threat on your device.
  • Change all your passwords immediately.
  • Contact banks or credit card companies to issue you new cards.
  • Close any compromised accounts and open brand new ones using different, more secure passwords.

According to homeland security, a cyber attack is "the violation of an explicit or implied security policy." Some examples of this might be:

  • An attempt to gain access to a private account, website or unauthorized system.
  • A denial of service attack.
  • Unauthorized use of your account or a system you use.
  • Changes to settings, hardware or software without your permission.


Phishing is when you get an email from what looks like a legitimate company that you may or may not do business with, but it is from someone else impersonating that company or person. They are attempting to entice you into giving them log in, security or personal information. Be acutely aware of this type of scam and report it immediately. Then delete the email. Do not click on any links or follow any instructions contained in the email. You can report phishing incidents here.


Malware is a program or virus-type software that is illicitly installed on your computer when you click on an infected website or malicious link. Malware can do things like scan your computer for sensitive information, copy files, upload things, monitor your browsing history, change settings and more.

Always keep your computer virus and malware scanners up to date. This advice applies to mobile devices also. Security patches come out frequently so be sure to install it whenever there is an update available.

You can report malware incidents and vulnerabilities that you are aware of by contacting the DHS at and

Stop. Think. Connect.

Stop.Think.Connect is a national public awareness program developed to help individuals understand the risk of using Internet-connected devices and offering them information and guidance on how to be safer and more secure when using online resources.