Editorial: Good cyber hygiene

How diligent have you been in keeping your computer, your phone and tablet healthy and free from hackers?

The Russian hackers with their absurd names — GRIZZLY STEPPE, SEADADDY, HAMMERTOSS, Energetic Bear, Carberp, and the more well-known Fancy Bear — may have produced the biggest headlines last year but they aren’t the only big- and small-time criminals engaging in malicious cyber activity.

In late December, a former Shelton High School student was arrested and charged with computer crimes after an investigation found he had hacked into the school district’s systems, causing denial of service and committing attacks against the servers on a daily basis.

A 15-year-old boy was arrested last September for hacking an Old Lyme High School teacher’s email. Some years ago, two Ridgefield 16-year-olds got busted for hacking into their high school’s computer systems, attempting to change their grades.

A hacker stole data from a Fairfield County accounting firm in a breach that may have impacted as many as 900 customers in May 2013.

Six Wendy’s locations in Connecticut were among 1,000 affected in credit card hacking reported by Fox 61 News last July. The Hartford TV news station reported on the hacking of dozens of homeowners’ and businesses’ webcams in upstate towns in 2014.

Millions of Anthem Inc. insurance customers’ account data was stolen when the company was hacked about two years ago, remember? The hackers gained access to Anthem’s computer system, making off with names, birthdays, medical IDs, Social Security numbers, home addresses, email addresses, employment information including income, and more.

“Almost every hack or cyberattack you read about in the news could have been prevented if individuals had better ‘cyber hygiene,’ the day-to-day things you can do to protect yourself,” said Congressman Jim Himes in an email newsletter this week.

“Malware, ransomware and phishing attacks are on the rise, but there are simple steps that you can take to deny hackers, cyber-criminals or foreign governments access to your sensitive data. Protection starts with your basic cyber hygiene.”

Best practices include using two-step logins; using a strong, unique password for everything; setting your phone, your tablet and your computer to lock out after being inactive; knowing what you’re connecting to; knowing what you’re clicking; checking the URL in the address bar before typing in your password; regularly updating your apps, your phone, and your computer; keeping backups; using an ad blocker on your browser; and keeping your computer secure with end point protection such as anti-virus, anti-malware, and anti-exploit software.

If hackers have gotten to you, advice on what to do is available at www.wired.com/2013/03/what-to-do-after-youve-been-hacked. Step-by-step guidance on repairing the damage caused by identity theft can be found at ftc.gov/news-events/media-resources/identity-theft-and-data-security.