October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month

October 13, 2016

These days, the Internet touches almost every aspect of our daily lives. We communicate online, share photos, conduct research, read the news, schedule appointments, pay bills, shop and manage banking and investment accounts. When we become disconnected from our online selves, we feel the impact. When we are the target of a cyber attack, the impact can be severe.

The goal of National Cyber Security Awareness Month is to raise awareness about the many technology-related threats we face every day and learn how to better protect ourselves from these emerging threats. While a strong offense is our best defense, a good defensive strategy is also important.

How to Proactively Protect Yourself Online


Whether to protect your business or your personal identity, cyber insurance can be a worthwhile investment.


For businesses, cyber insurance is becoming an ever-increasing necessity, especially if your company holds valuable information about its customers like Social Security or credit card numbers.

Though policies will vary, below are common reimbursable business expenses if you’ve purchased cyber insurance and are the target of an attack.

  • A A forensic investigation to determine the breach, how to recover and prevent a breach from occurring again
  • Business interruption – monetary loses incurred by network downtime
  • Legal expenses that may come from any exposed confidential information of customers
  • Credit monitoring services and data breach notifications to customers


While individual cyber insurance may not be necessary for everyone, there are those who should consider a policy. For example, those with large investible assets may want to consider a policy if their banks or brokerages don’t fully protect their assets.

Those who keep most of their money in bank checking or savings accounts, and those who use credit cards, are generally protected by the safeguards of their financial institutions. For example, many banks will allow you to sign up for transaction alerts giving you real-time updates on any activity. Some banks will alert you to suspicious activity as well. Still, it is always wise to make sure your assets are well and fully protected since the bank is generally not liable if your identity is stolen or someone hacks into your account.

Strong Passwords

A strong password is important and it is recommended to use random letters, numbers and characters for best protection. Using birthdates, social security numbers or an address can be problematic if someone identifies them and then uses them to unlock your accounts.

Identity Protection Alerts

There are several companies out there that will monitor your online activity and alert you if there is anything suspicious or out of the normal. This is important because if your identity is compromised and you are notified immediately, you can stop yourself from being further victimized and alert your financial institutions of the breach.

Beware Email and Phone Scams

If you receive a strange email or text to your phone, do not respond. Scammers will try to engage you, sometimes pretending to be someone you know, so that they may obtain personal and sensitive information from you. When in doubt, hit delete or check with someone if the message claims to be from a person you know. There are new scams emerging constantly so it is important to play it safe and always be cautious when a message or call seems strange.

Freeze Your Credit

If you do not currently need a line of credit, you may want to consider a credit freeze. Freezing your credit makes it less likely that an identity thief can open new accounts using your name.

Freezing your credit will not affect your credit score and you can unfreeze whenever you need. It is a low cost process, which varies by state, and may even be free if you are the victim of identity theft.

What If You Are the Victim of a Cyber Attack?

Sometimes no matter how many safeguards you put in place, you may be the victim of a cyber attack or data breach. Here is what to do if you have been attacked.

  • Report it – Don’t wait. Notify your financial institutions immediately so that your accounts and credit card numbers cannot be used or further compromised.
  • Change your passwords – Especially if you use the same password in more than one location, it is best to be safe and change all your passwords.
  • Update your antivirus software – It is a good time to check for updates and make sure your computer is not compromised.
  • Sign up for monitoring services – If the breach was through a company and they offer free monitoring services, sign up and take advantage of the extra protection.

Have questions about whether you or your business is protected from cyber attacks? Contact a Brooks, Todd & McNeil agent to assess your needs.