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Three cyber security mistakes I never knew I was making

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Tips for staying cyber safe in summer

I’ve been here a month and with everyone still recovering from the recent cyber security incident, I was looking forward to being involved in the summer cyber security event.

With the theme of “stay cyber safe this summer”, I was excited to help my colleagues learn more about being safe online. It never crossed my mind that it would be me that would be learning something and that I would change the way I access my online world.

Initial smugness

Over two days we had four speakers talking about a wide range of subjects. Things like managing your digital footprint, staying cyber safe when travelling through airports and how to keep your children safe online.

As I listened to each of the talks I became more aware that my initial smugness about my online safety and security was somewhat misplaced. I’ve been lucky not to have had my information compromised so far.

I quickly realised that I was making three big mistakes. Addressing them may not entirely protect me from being a victim of cyber crime but it might deter and slow down anyone looking to try.

Problem passwords

My first error was my password. I was sure my password would be strong as it was a combination of letters and numbers. It had to be safe because it was the same one given to me by my university in 2001.

As Andy Jones from the University of Hertfordshire pointed out, I hadn’t changed my password regularly and I used it across several different accounts. Fast forward a few hours and I spent a productive evening changing all my passwords to ten digits including capitals, numbers and symbols.

Forget your Wi-Fi networks

This wasn’t the only way I spent my evenings that week as error number two was my haphazard use of public Wi-Fi. According to Eric Sheeran from Gatwick Airport, using public Wi-Fi can leave us more vulnerable to people being able to access our information without us even realising it’s happening.

This can be made even worse if you allow your device to remember the Wi-Fi network, as it will be sending out signals looking for it. That evening was the first time I ever welcomed a train delay. It gave me time to delete all the remembered Wi-Fi networks from my phone. All 54 of them!

Turn off location settings

Error number three was my digital footprint. I was sure I couldn’t have made any errors here. I’m careful with what I post online and I don’t have any geotagging on social media. No, wrong again!

That location setting I have permanently turned on so I can use my mapping could be telling people how to find me. I use the Google Now app on my phone (Siri is the apple version) because sometimes I'm too lazy to type the words. It can, however, listen to my conversations and records the things I ask it. These things are easy to switch on and off but at least I’m in control of them now.

Even though I thought this was an area that I was confident in, I learnt so much attending last week's events. I’m sure this will not be the last time that the cyber security team run this type of event for everyone in Parliament. I highly recommend going to these events. Even if you think you're as aware as you can be, there'll be something for everyone to learn.

Read about our response to the recent cyber security incident in Parliament

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