Four Steps to Stay Safe Online


Making the most of technology safely and securely can seem overwhelming and confusing. However, regardless of what technology you are using or how you are using it, here are four steps that will help you stay secure.

1. Think Before You Click

Technology alone cannot fully protect you; you are your best defense. Attackers have learned that the easiest way to get what they want is to target you rather than your computer or other devices. If they want your password, credit card, or control of your computer, they’ll attempt to trick you into giving it to them, often by creating a sense of urgency. 

Example Targeted Attacks:
  • Someone might call you pretending to be Microsoft tech support and claim that your computer is infected when in reality they are just cyber criminals who want you to give them access to your computer.
  • You receive an email warning that your package could not be delivered and pressuring you into clicking a link to confirm your mailing address when in reality they are tricking you into visiting a malicious website that will hack into your computer.

Ultimately, the greatest defense against attackers is you. By using common sense, you can spot and stop many attacks.

2. Use Passphrases and Two-Step Verification

 A passphrase is a type of password that uses a series of words, such as honey bee bourbon rain, that is easy to remember and meets the specified minimum number of characters, capital letters, and numbers.  

  • Use a passphrase for your university account. 
  • The longer the passphrase the stronger it is as long as it is easy to remember.
  • Applying passphrases to your personal cyber accounts is a wise thing to do as well.

Enable two-step verification (also called two-factor or multi-factor authentication) is one of the most important steps you can take to protect your online accounts. It uses your password but also adds a second step, such as entering a code sent to your smartphone or from an app that generates the code for you. 

  • Enabling two-step verification may be easier than you may think.
  • Required for ISU faculty and staff access to your Office 365 system.  
  • As with strong passwords and passphrases, applying MFA to your personal resources is beneficial.  

3. Secure your Devices and Applications

Make sure your computers, mobile devices, programs,  are running the latest version of the installed software. Cyber attackers are constantly looking for new vulnerabilities in the software your devices use. When they discover vulnerabilities, they use special programs to exploit them and hack into the devices you are using. Meanwhile, the companies that created the software for these devices are hard at work fixing the vulnerabilities by releasing updates. 

  • Keep devices with you or stored in a secure location when not in use.
  • Lock your computer when you walk away to prevent unauthorized use.  (Family and friends should not use your ISU issued devices) 
  • Connect to a secure network or use the ISU Virtual Private Network (VPN).
  • Use ISU supported applications for university business.
  • Keep applications used on devices connected to a network updated, including: 
    • Internet-connected TVs
    • baby monitors
    • security cameras
    • home routers
    • gaming consoles and even your car
    • Stay current by enabling automatic updating whenever possible. 


4. Backup your Information

No matter how careful you are, you still may be hacked. If that is the case, often the only way to restore all of your personal information is to recover it from your backup. 

  • Make a regular backup of any important information and verify that you can restore your data from them. 
  • Most operating systems and mobile devices support automatic backups, either to external drives or to the cloud.  
  • Storing your ISU resources and information on a network drive (L:Drive) or in OneDrive ensures your data is backed up. 
  • USB drives are not to be used for Student Data, or any Restricted or Highly Restricted Data.

The Data stored on your ISU computer local hard drive and is not backed up by OIT and is not recommended for storing important information.

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