This month, University Technology’s ([U]Tech) Information Security Office is marking National Cybersecurity Awareness Month by sharing information on different facets of cybersecurity.

The boundaries between work life, home life and student life today are becoming harder to see at Case Western Reserve and universities nationwide. Wherever our users are, they often have computers and mobile devices on hand that access university systems and data. 

Here are some tips for securing those devices, to ensure that, even at a distance, the resources supporting the university’s academic, research and administrative missions are protected. 

Put cybersecurity first

Make cybersecurity a priority in your professional or student roles. Routines that maintain good online hygiene include performing regular software updates, enabling Multi-Factor Authentication, and using personal devices instead of work-provided ones to access non-work-related sites. 

Stay abreast of cybersecurity news as it relates to your university life and your personal life. The university publishes security news relevant to the community in The Daily, and outside security news sources should be consulted regularly.

Smart devices need smart security

Use smart security when connecting devices to any network, whether at home, at work or around town. When setting up a new device, whether it’s a new tablet or a Smart Fridge, configure the privacy and security settings on the device itself, bearing in mind that you can limit who you are sharing information with. Once your device is set up, get in the habit of keeping tabs on how secure the information is that you store on it, and actively managing location services so as not to unwittingly expose your location. 

When you connect a work device to your home network, ensure your home network is secure. Spend time getting to know what’s normal, and what seems out of order, for your devices. Work with your internet service provider, a trusted vendor or a tech-savvy friend to confirm that your wireless access point or modem is secure. One simple yet powerful security step is to use a complex Wi-Fi passphrase that is different from the default password. 

Make passwords and passphrases long and strong

Whether or not the website you are on requires it, combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a complex password that is not easy for someone else to guess. If the website or app allows it, the university recommends using a passphrase instead. 

Short passwords and passwords that use common dictionary words and simple substitutions are easy to hack. Don’t believe us? Check your passwords against the top 200 most common passwords, and if it’s not on that list, see if your password is among the top 10,000. If you need help remembering and storing your passwords, we recommend using a password manager for assistance.

Don’t trust free Wi-Fi or public computers

While working from home, you may be tempted to change scenery and work from a coffee shop or another type of public space. If you must connect to free Wi-Fi, always use a VPN to secure your online activity. Do not access personal accounts on a public computer, such as your email, online bank service, or health accounts. Keep security top of mind always, and especially while working in a public setting, by keeping activities as generic and anonymous as possible.

Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when idle

The uncomfortable truth is, when Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are on, criminals can connect to your devices, track your whereabouts, or collect your data. To stay as safe as possible, if you do not need them, switch them off. It’s a simple step that can help alleviate tracking concerns and incidents.

These are just a few simple steps towards achieving the best online safety possible from any location. Staying safe online is an active process that requires constant oversight at every stage—from purchasing and setting up a device, to making sure your day-to-day activities are not putting anyone at risk. By following these steps, you are doing your part to keep yourself and your company safe from malicious online activity.

Visit [U]Tech’s Information Security Office website for more information on cybersecurity.