Quick Tips for the Security Minded

By Craig Fulem, Smart City‘s General Manager at the Virginia Beach Convention Center

The Internet is a resource that many of us have integrated into our professional and personal lives. As we continue to grow and navigate in this digital world, it is important to take steps and protect our personal information like we do in the real world. Below are several helpful tips to keep in mind.

Create a strong, but easy to remember password: If the password system allows a lengthy password, create a short sentence. Short sentence passwords take longer to crack by brute-force attacks and are easier to remember than a P@s$//0r[) with limited alphanumeric characters. (XKCD explains this concept clearly with his comic at: https://xkcd.com/936/) A short sentence password is stronger than a standard 8-character password, but still has weaknesses that are vulnerable to clever hackers.

While most servers with security protection will lock an account after multiple failed login attempts to prevent attacks, that is not always the case. Another scheme for creating a secure password is called the Schneier method. This method involves creating a long sentence that is unique and personal, and breaking the sentence down to letters and letter substitutions. For instance “i1cadlstuap,tb1d2l&ls.” is the previous sentence converted to a password. (Bruce Schneier explains this best in his article at: http://boingboing.net/2014/02/25/choosing-a-secure-password.html)

Stop giving out so much personal information online: Sharing your location, travel plans, and major purchases may seem fun, but imagine what a stranger can do with that information. All of this information advertises the fact that you are not at home, when you plan not to be at home, and all of the expensive personal items inside that have been left unattended. Social media channels such as Facebook have some privacy features, but if the information is on the Internet it can and will be seen by strangers one way or another. You can bypass these privacy and security vulnerabilities by refraining from sharing this type of information.

Surf With Encryption: Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) ensures communication traffic is only readable by your computer and the website host server. Adding an additional ‘s’, from http:// to https:// can prevent potential man-in-the-middle attacks. The use of HTTPS is especially important for websites containing personal and financial information. If a social or shopping website does not support https or generate a 404 Not Found Error, consider using another website that does.

Broadcast With WPA2 Encryption: Most home routers have an option for Wi-Fi encryption. WEP, MAC filtering, disabling DHCP, and hiding the SSID are dated practices against current intrusion methods. Consult your Wi-Fi router or access point owner’s manual on how to enable WPA2.

Smartphone With Encryption: Does repeating this sound like a broken record? Maybe; however, your bank account could be “broken” if your phone is stolen. Most smartphones have a password lock screen to prevent intruders from using the device, but this feature does not protect the data within your phone if the device is plugged into a computer. Encrypting the data, applications, and photos within a smartphone is an additional layer of security if the locked screen is bypassed. GPS locator on a phone only displays the phone’s location when it is out of your hands — it does not protect the data within it.

Be Cautious of Unencrypted Wi-Fi: “Public Wi-Fi” may seem attractive, but it could be a trap that can cost your personal information. Listed below are a few helpful tips if you need to connect to a public network.
1. Confirm the network you are connecting to is the official network for your current location. For example, CoffeeBucks, McBurgers, Terminal1_Airport and etc.
2. Do not submit sensitive personal or financial information on an unsecured network. Avoid inputting login and password information for your email, banking and shopping account.
3. Ensure your device firewall is enabled. The purpose of a firewall to block unauthorized traffic while your device is on the Internet.

Smart City Networks strives to provide excellent and secure wireless communication within our facilities. As a security practice we monitor for rogue access points and disable client-to-client communications.

As we continue to integrate technology into our lives it is vital to protect our digital information the same way we would protect our physical documents. By following these tips of creating a strong password, utilizing encryption and being aware of your Public Wi-Fi surroundings, the probability of having personal data stolen can be significantly reduced.

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