Web security up to all of us

By Michael Carr

Recently, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security embraced New York City’s “See Something? Say Something” campaign in its attempt to thwart any attempts by terrorists to disrupt our lives.

In a similar vein, the National Cyber Security Alliance has selected “Our Shared Responsibility” as its theme for this year’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Since no one really owns the Internet, it really is up to all of us to do our part to keep the Internet safe and available.

So, what is our part?

Keep it patched: It sounds simple, but keep your computer system and your application software (like Adobe Flash Player) patched and up to date. Two of the biggest breaches in 2011 — involving Sony and RSA — were due to unpatched software. Most car owners know to regularly change their car’s oil. Computer owners need to be just as vigilant.

Keep it working: Anti-virus software and firewalls used to slow personal computers down so much that owners disabled them. That is no longer the case. Install anti-malware software and keep it up to date. Frequently scan your computer for malicious software and remove any viruses or trojans that are found. Keep your computer’s firewall turned on. It may not be the best defense against computer intruders but it’s better than nothing.

Keep it to yourself: No legitimate organization should ever ask you for your password in an email and, with so many paper bills being replaced by email notices, always double check the websites you visit before you type in your username and password. Many fraudulent messages, called phishing email, contain links to criminal websites that look legitimate. When you’re online, it’s OK to be skeptical.

These are just a few things we each can do to improve the security of our own computers, protect our data and help maintain order on the Internet. After all, it really is our shared responsibility. One might even say that improving our own computer security is actually our civic duty.

For a free computer security checkup, visit www.staysafeonline.org and search for “Free Security Check Ups.”

Michael Carr is UK’s chief information security officer. He also is a licensed attorney and board-certified in information security and privacy.  Email him at Michael.Carr@uky.edu.