Creating a passphrase is one step to help
secure data, computer, mobile devices

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and Trine University’s cybersecurity experts are offering tips each week during the month.

This week, Dan Matthews, an associate professor of informatics, explains how to best protect mobile devices and computers.

Securing Your Technology

Many of us have heard the nightmarish stories about someone’s computer being hacked or stolen or have received an email from an account that has been hijacked. While the thought of such an event can be unnerving, it’s not complicated to make devices more secure.

A digital security risk is any event or action that could cause a loss of or damage to a computer or mobile device hardware, software, data, information or processing capability. Data security should be an important area of concern for each individual who uses any technology, whether mobile or non-mobile. When one considers all the important data stored virtually – from financial records, to private information to communication documents – it's not difficult to see why one breach could seriously

In my classes, I teach the steps below as the best four security rules to follow. Many more guidelines are available online; the more steps taken to protect technology, the safer it is for the user.

1. Create and safeguard passphrases that are difficult for others to guess.

The term “password” and the use of passwords should have ended when the floppy disk drive went the way of the cassette tape. Passphrases are easy to remember, long and difficult to hack for many reasons.

Resist the urge to write the passphrase and do not share it. Good, cryptic passphrases are long and difficult to guess given information about the user or with a dictionary cracking tool; and are easy to enter so others are  less likely to watch it being typed. For the highest security on a Windows system, a password more than 14 characters long is recommended. For example, My dogs are Fido and Midge; I want a Bugatti 2011; iT iS hArD.

2. Protect information when using the Internet and email.

Don't log in to websites or online applications unless the login page is secure. Never enter personal or sensitive information unless a trusted, secure web page is being used.  Look for https (not http) in the URL to indicate there is a secure connection. 

Be especially careful when using wireless service. Information and passwords sent via standard, unencrypted wireless are especially easy for hackers to intercept (most public access wireless is unencrypted). Hint: Set laptops and mobile devices to “ask” before joining networks to avoid unknowingly connecting to insecure wireless networks.

3. Secure laptop computers and mobile devices at all times by locking them or carrying them.

Ensure the device is locked or secured in something sturdy that cannot be readily carried away. Keep in mind that laptop lockdown cables are available at most computer or office supply stores.

4. Make sure the computer is protected with anti-virus software and necessary security “patches” and updates, and learn what needs to be done, if anything, to keep the security current. Shut down or restart computers at least weekly and whenever programs call for a restart to install updates. Shutting down regularly helps ensure software and security updates are properly installed.

For more information about Trine University’s major in cybersecurity, call the Office of Admission at 260.665.4100 or contact professor Bill Barge at bargeb@trine.edu or 260.665.4298 or visit bit.ly/trinecyber.