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Letter: Tips for protecting yourself from online hackers

Seymour writes, "Being online exposes us to cyber criminals and others who commit identity theft, fraud and harassment. Every time we connect to the internet, we make decisions that affect our cybersecurity."

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Tom Seymour, West Fargo, served in the North Dakota Senate from 2002 to 2010.
Contributed / Tom Seymour
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Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine and its history of sheltering hackers and ransomware actors heightens the need for good cybersecurity practices. It is critical that everyone — including businesses and individuals — stay engaged and implement best practices to protect themselves and others. Being online exposes us to cyber criminals and others who commit identity theft, fraud and harassment. Every time we connect to the internet, we make decisions that affect our cybersecurity.

In my work as a technology professor at Minot State University and on the technology committee of the North Dakota State Senate, I have driven legislation that protects North Dakota’s security as well as the privacy and civil liberties of our citizens. As a board member at Cass County Electric Cooperative we discuss and promote cybersecurity on a regular basis.

Here are four simple steps you can take to keep your online information secure:

1. Update your software

  • Attackers can take advantage of known problems or vulnerabilities in software that hasn’t been updated.
  • Many operating systems and apps offer automatic updates. If this option is available, you should enable it.

2. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication

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  • Implementing multi-factor authentication on your accounts reduces the likelihood that you will be hacked by 99%. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has helpful videos on how you can go about setting up MFA on your devices, available to watch at   https://www.cisa.gov/ .

3. Use strong passwords

  • One of the best ways to protect information or physical property is to ensure that only authorized people have access to it.
  • Avoid passwords based on easy to guess personal information, such as your birthday or address. Instead try and make passwords that aren’t dictionary words and use both capital and lowercase letters.
  • Try not to reuse passwords on different systems and accounts.

4. Use caution with email attachments and untrusted links.

  • Attackers may send emails seemingly from a reputable credit card company or financial institution that requests account information, often suggesting that there is a problem.
  • If you are unsure whether an email request is legitimate, try to verify it by contacting the company directly.
  • Look for URLs that begin with "https"—an indication that sites are secure—rather than "http.”
  • Look for a closed padlock icon—a sign your information will be encrypted.

For more free helpful cybersecurity services and tools, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s website at https://www.cisa.gov/ .

Yes, you are the key to make sure all the technological devices in your home and in your business are secure on a daily basis.

Tom Seymour, West Fargo, served in the North Dakota Senate from 2002 to 2010.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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