8 simple tips to improve your online safety and security
Cybersecurity is everyone's job.
Organizations and homes cannot be secure without each and every person doing their part. Online safety and security are a responsibility we all share.
Here are some simple tips from the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), as well as resources from University Information Technology (UIT) and the Information Security Office (ISO) to help you get started.
Keep tabs on your apps
Most connected appliances, toys, and devices are supported by a mobile application. Your mobile device could be filled with suspicious apps running in the background, or using default permissions you never realized you approved — gathering your personal information without your knowledge, while also putting your identity and privacy at risk. Check your app permissions and delete what you don't need or no longer use.
Share with care
Think before posting about yourself and others online. Consider what a post reveals, who might see it, and how it might affect you or others. Consider creating an alternate persona that you use for online profiles to limit how much of your own personal information you share.
Think before you click
If you receive an enticing offer via email or text, don't be so quick to click on the link. Instead, go directly to the company's website to verify it is legitimate. If you're unsure who an email is from — even if the details appear accurate — or if the email looks "phishy," do not respond and do not click on any links or open any attachments in that email as they may be infected with malware.
ISO's Beware of Phishing video (below) and Phishing 101 tip sheet are two great resources that will help you quickly familiarize yourself with phishing attacks.
A middle-aged white man (who we will call the "fisher" from now on) wearing a green fishing vest with many pockets walks through a grove of trees, holding a fishing pole and tackle box. He has short, light brown hair and scruffy facial hair, and wears a red, white, and blue flannel shirt and jeans. He sets the pole and tackle box on the ground and stretches his arms above his head. White text flies up, reading "phish•ing." More white text follows, reading:
"Tricking a user into sharing personal information or login credentials by posing as an official source."
0:09: The video transitions to the fisher sitting at a desk with two computer monitors. The monitor on the left shows a document containing a pie chart; the monitor on the right shows a yacht on water. The man rubs his hands together and cracks his knuckles, then begins to type on his keyboard. Near his keyboard, under the monitors, he has Funko Pop statues and comic book figurines.
0:13: The video transitions back to the fisher in the grove of trees. The video zooms in on the fisher's hands; he holds a small, metal box containing fishing lures. He selects a lure and attaches it to his fishing line. He then walks toward a red block U statue on the University of Utah campus.
0:23: The video moves to a shared work table, where a man and woman huddle over their Apple laptops. The white man has dark, short hair and wears a light-colored button-up shirt and khaki pants; the white woman has long, dark, wavy hair and wears a black dress. She holds a dark folder open in her lap. A woman sits adjacent to them, wearing headphones and using her Apple laptop. She has dark hair pulled into a bun and wears dark glasses and a light-colored hoodie.
0:25: The video transitions back to the fisher, who stands in front of the "Imagine U" side of Marriott Library, casting his fishing line toward the building. He walks through campus again, passing a set of stairs and multiple street lamps. He then casts his line toward a white female student passing by on the sidewalk, which is lined with trees full of leaves. The red block U is behind him on the left. The student — who is wearing a multicolored, short-sleeved shirt with chevron patterns, black pants, and a backpack — shies away.
0:35: The fisher continues casting his line in various places around campus. In one scene, he even pops out beyond a bush to startle a man passing by. The white man is wearing a blue button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up and jeans. In another scene, the fisher casts his line toward a white male man who is walking his bike on the sidewalk. The cyclist has long light brown or blond hair, and wears red flannel, dark jeans, a red and white hat, and a backpack and carries a light-colored helmet. He ducks from the fishing line.
0:41: In the next scene, the fisher climbs a rock and looks out over the landscape. He then appears to reel in his fishing line, which is taut. Text fades in from the left, reading "You will never receive a threatening or intimidating email from any legitimate University source."
0:48: The video transitions to a man, whose face we cannot see, typing on a black laptop with a U drum and feather sticker and a white sticker in the shape of Alaska. He is wearing a white shirt with a dark graphic, Apple headphones, and a red and white braided bracelet. On the desk, there is a couple of notebooks, and red and blue pens. Light filters in behind him. Text fades in from the left, reading "Never share your uNID and password with anyone."
0:53: The video transitions to a black screen that shows icons and text on the common signs of phishing scams, including the "no" symbol and a tip that reads: "Common Phishing Scams." A pointer moves to reveal the following bullet points:
- "Unusual email language, poor spelling or grammar"
- "The URL doesn't match webpage"
1:02: The video then moves to into an example of a webpage in the Safari browser. The URL reads "www.TAKEALLYOURMONEYANDRUN.org," and the page imitates a University of Utah login screen. A browser tab in the background reads, "Funny Cats — YouTube." The video zooms in on the URL, which is highlighted with a white overlay while the rest of the screen is darkened by a black overlay.
1:05: The video returns to the bullet point list of common phishing scams. The next item reads, "When hovering over link, it doesn't match the promised content."
1:08: The screen transitions to an email client, which shows an example of an email. Highlighted is a link that reads, "here" but shows a URL to "http://takeallyourmoneyandrun.org."
1:11: The video transitions into a library, where an Asian man sits at a desk with his hands on the keyboard of the laptop open in front of him. He is wearing a checkered button-down shirt with the sleeves pushed up and a pair of glasses. His hair is black and a bit long around the ears, forehead, and back of the neck. A backpack or messenger bag is on the table next to his laptop, and a chair is open to his left. In the background, light filters in from large windows and two stacks/shelves hold numerous books.
1:15: The video zooms in on the Asian man and his laptop. On the screen, text reads "Guard your uNID and password like your Social Security number." Then video transitions into a montage of shots of people using open laptops. The first image shows a desk with an open laptop, which has multiple windows open. White hands barely touch the edge of the keyboard. Text fades in that reads "Change your password often." The second image shows a white man using the touch pad on his laptop to scroll. We only see his hands and the sleeves of his button-down shirt, which is white checkered with dark lines. The third image shows a white woman using a silver laptop. She faces us so we cannot see what is on the screen. She has long, brown hair and wears a dark T-shirt. To her right, another white person, who appears to be a woman, types on a laptop. This person is wearing a gray sweatshirt or hoodie. Text fades in that reads "Change your password and call the Campus Help Desk immediately." A phone number reading "801-581-4000" fades in.
1:25: The video transitions back to an outdoor space on campus with grass and trees. A man in a light blue-green shirt and dark pants walks left past our view. Another man, somewhat balding, walks right past our view. He wears a dark blue or black shirt with short sleeves and a collar, and jeans. The fisher is in the background, waving his fishing line.
1:29: The video returns to the fisher's desk, with a close-up on the Funko pop and comic book figurines. The figurines include Superman and a shark, but it's not clear which characters the others represent. The video zooms out so we can see the fisher sitting at the desk. He makes a fist with his right hand and pulls it downward in a motion that represents cha-ching, yes, score, gotcha, or a similar celebration. He throws his head back and laughs.
1:32: The screen goes black. The University Information Technology (UIT) logo (white text with a red Block U) and white text reading "it.utah.edu/" fade in, with the word "security" added shortly after to the end of the URL so it reads "it.utah.edu/security."
1:37: The screen changes to a white background with a gray gradient at the bottom that shows a mirror image of the red and black Imagine U logo in the center of the screen.
Phishing is becoming more and more popular.
We're talking about phishing with a "ph." Not the river-runs-through-it kind.
It's about cyber scammers, con artists, and thieves. Every day they're baiting and hooking personal information and gutting bank accounts. It's happening all around the nation and right here at the U.
Faculty, staff, and students are all vulnerable, and attacks are becoming more targeted.
Because some university personal information is readily available, scammers are often using it, along with emotional responses, to get you to act.
It's important to stay vigilant and know thieves are trying to land the big one.
You will never receive a threatening or intimidating email from any legitimate university source.
Don't take the bait. Never share your uNID and password with anyone. And look for the signs that are common in phishing scams. Things like:
- unusual email language or spelling or grammar
- the URL doesn't match the webpage
- when hovering over a link, it doesn't match the promised content
Here's what to do to stay protected:
- Guard your uNID and password like your Social Security number
- Change your passwords often
- Lock your screens when not in use or when you leave your desk
If you've been hooked, call the Campus Help Desk (801-581-4000, option 1) immediately.
Trust your gut. If it smells fishy, it probably is.
For more information, visit it.utah.edu.
When in doubt, throw it out
Links in email, tweets, texts, posts, social media messages, and online advertising are the easiest way for cybercriminals to get your sensitive information. Be wary of clicking on links or downloading anything that comes from a stranger or that you were not expecting. When available, use the "junk" or "block" option to no longer receive messages from a particular sender. Don't trust those links.
Lock down your login
Create long and unique passphrases for all accounts and use multifactor authentication (MFA) wherever possible. MFA will fortify your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics or a unique one-time code sent to your phone or mobile device. Use password managers to generate and remember different, complex passwords for each of your accounts.
Do you have a strong password? With UIT’s Password Tester, you can see if your password meets the University of Utah’s requirements.
Get savvy about Wi-Fi hot spots
Public wireless networks and hot spots are not secure, which means that anyone could potentially see what you are doing on your laptop or smartphone while you are connected to them. Limit what you do on public Wi-Fi, and avoid logging in to key accounts like email and bank accounts. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) or a personal/mobile hot spot if you need a more secure connection.
When in doubt, use the U’s virtual private network (VPN) for secure internet access. AnyConnect is the university’s preferred VPN client and can be downloaded through the OSL website (login required).
If you’re visiting a partner institution, you can connect securely via eduroam.
Keep a clean machine
Keep all software on internet-connected devices — including personal computers, smartphones, and tablets — current to reduce risk of infection from ransomware and malware. Configure your devices to automatically update or to notify you when an update is available.
Antivirus software, like Endpoint Protection, is available for purchase from the Office of Software Licensing (OSL). OSL provides special educational pricing for a variety of software for students, faculty, staff, and departmental use.
Own your online presence
Every time you sign up for a new account, download a new app, or get a new device, immediately configure the privacy and security settings to your comfort level for information sharing. Regularly check these settings (at least once a year) to make sure they are still configured to your comfort.
2020 Cybersecurity Awareness Month
Creating a cybersecure workspace — at home
Why so many phishing attacks succeed
Meet the computer forensics experts who investigate the U's cybersecurity incidents
What to do when an abuser uses technology against you
Common scams — and how to spot them
CSAM Scavenger Hunt
Join the conversation on Twitter! Follow @uofu_iso.