Here are some tips to minimize exposure to cyber vulnerabilities and threats:
  1. Use password best practices: 10 plus characters long, a mix of letters, numbers and special characters and unique for each system.  Your NCC password should not be the same as your social media or banks password.
  2. Regularly update all your applications and Operating System.  If you are still running Windows XP or Windows 7 at home, you need to update to Windows 10 to remain secure.  It is also a best practice to restart your computer regularly. 
  3. Always run a supported Anti-Virus program and ensure it is kept up to date.
  4. Carefully scrutinize emails containing links and attachments, even if sender is known.  It is very easy spoof a “from address”.  It is also possible a hacker has control over a trusted colleague or friends’ email because they fell for a phishing email and gave up their credentials to the hacker. 
  5. Backup important files and photos to a location that can be physically disconnected from the internet, such as a USB thumb drive.  Ransomware has been known to not only encrypt (corrupt) files on your computer, but also to files stored in Dropbox or other cloud storage. The hackers then force you to pay money to decrypt the files.
  6. Where possible, enable Multi-Factor authentication.  This makes it harder for a hacker to gain access to your accounts as it requires both your password and a PIN code sent to your mobile device before logging in. 

Protecting your personal files and those of the college is all of our responsibility.  Stay aware and informed of current cyber threats by signing up to receive cyber security alerts here: https://us-cert.cisa.gov.

Thank you. 

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Tom Briggs
Tom Briggs is Northampton Community College's director of network and technology operations. He received his associate degree in electronics from NCC before earning his bachelor's in management from Franklin University; becoming a Certified Information Systems Security Professional;, and getting an information assurance master's degree from Norwich University. Briggs has been an Infragard member (a public-private partnership between U.S. businesses and the FBI) since 2001 and is in demand as a cyber security speaker at various conferences and local area high schools.