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How to keep your computer Cyber-secure

picture of two Centennial College Cybersecurity program students in a server room looking at a tablet

There are tons of different programs at Centennial College, but no matter the program, there’s a common thread: You’re probably taking some of your course on a computer, whether on one of the school’s desktop computers, or your own laptop. And when you’re not in school, you’re probably using a computer for important life tasks, such as banking. We live in an age where hacking is a big deal, and keeping your computer safe is big business. You can become a part of that business, too, with the College's Cybersecurity program. This is a one-year graduate certificate program for experienced students, it’ll teach you how to protect networks and computers from malicious people and programs through our modern cybersecurity labs, turning you into a well-educated security professional, ready for a career in cyber security. Making sure your data and personal information isn’t taken by scammers begins with you. Before you make a career out of it, here is some basic advice about keeping your data secure.

1. How to make a secure password

It all starts with your password. You probably already know that you shouldn’t pick something common, like "123456," which is one of the most commonly-used passwords in existence. You shouldn’t use the same password across multiple accounts either, since if one gets hacked, many others will, too. What you probably don’t know is that you don’t have to make a password full of odd numbers, punctuation, and capital letters to make something secure, especially since it’ll make it really hard to remember. Instead, just make your password really, really long, for example, a full sentence or phrase without any punctuation or spaces. The more characters are in it, the more difficult it is to crack.

2. How to avoid Phishing

Phishing is when someone attempts to fool you into giving out your passwords, or convinces you to download malware, which can steal your information. Strange messages are usually a sign of phishing, and can come through many sources, including email, social media, texting and skype. One common tactic is to pose as an important organization like a bank, PayPal, the CRA, or something you need to log into, like Netflix. They’ll tell you that there’s some sort of emergency, or your account or money has been locked away, and that you need to enter your login information, or clock a link. An important theme is that the messages are designed to make you panic, because it’s a problem you need to fix right now. If you’re being asked to do this, it’s probably a scam, because the real organizations would contact you more directly, and wouldn’t use language designed to make you panic, or act quickly. Worst of all, though, is that when someone’s account is hacked, it’s a common trick for scammers to use it to send hacking messages to other people’s accounts. So, if a friend sends you an unusual message that sounds odd, and it comes with a link, ignore it, and report them.

3. Keep your computer safe in the real world, too

Of course, there are more direct ways to steal valuable info. If you’re on a desktop somewhere, be it at school or a library, and you’re doing something important, always lock it with a passcode if you need to leave, even if it’s just for a few moments. And you’re out somewhere using your laptop to do important things, you need to use secure, password-protected Wifi to do it, since open public wifi can be used to spy on computers.

By Anthony Geremia