MCC experts offer tips on protecting yourself online

Some Instagram users have reported getting notifications that a friend tagged them in a post called “Ugly List 2016.” But don’t click the link; it’s a phishing scam.

And did you hear who’s been named the most dangerous celebrity online? Answer: Comedian and actress Amy Schumer, because an internet search of her name carries a 16 percent chance of connecting with a site stuffed with viruses or malware. (Justin Bieber was No. 2.)

mcc-generic-picture-computer-labHave you checked your privacy settings lately or Googled yourself to see what pops up? If not, now’s the time: October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, an opportunity to ensure you are taking the best steps to keep your personal information safe and to learn more about protecting your online presence.

One prime way criminals can access your personal information is by following social networks, where many of us innocently post our likes, our family pictures and even when we’re away from home.

Cyber security expert Brian Hurley, a Metropolitan Community College-Blue River computer science and information systems instructor, says stealing someone’s identity used to involve methods such as digging through trash. But online, crooks often have it much easier.

Here, according to Hurley and Katherine Ellis, CSIS/Cisco program coordinator at MCC-Business & Technology, are …

The Top 5 Mistakes People Make Online

1. Sharing anything and everything online without stopping to think about it. Remember, what you post “will exist forever” on the internet, Hurley says. Consider what you’re revealing, who might see it and how it could be perceived now and in the future.

2. Failing to review (and change) the privacy and security settings on social networks, websites and apps. “Don’t be willing to trade privacy for convenience,” Hurley says.

3. Clicking mindlessly on a link in an email or on the web. “Use extreme caution when clicking links through email and social media,” Hurley says. Also, understand how the organizations you interact with communicate official information: “A real bank will never send you an email asking you to click a link to update personal information,” he says.

4. Failing to run software updates on internet-connected devices including computers, cell phones and tablets. Keeping up-to-date reduces the risk of infection from malware. “A simple way to do this is to allow your device to run automatic updates,” Ellis says. “Many of these updates are security patches.” (Also, be sure to use antivirus software, and be sure to keep it updated. If you install a free antivirus program, make sure it’s from a reputable company.)

5. Using the same password all the time or using simple passwords. “Be sure to create complex passwords with upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols,” Ellis says.  “Many people do not want to change their passwords and prefer a password that is simple, but this can be dangerous.”

There’s demand for skilled graduates in the online security field. MCC offers programs at two campuses, MCC-Blue River in Independence and MCC-Business & Technology near I-435 and Front Street.

“Many experts predict a shortage of qualified professionals available to fill open positions in coming years,” Hurley says.

In addition to the cyber security program, MCC offers an associate of science degree in secure systems administration and engineering, as well as Cisco Networking Academy and software development tracks. MCC’s programs blend current network and systems administration concepts with essential security skills and best practices necessary to deploy, administer and harden computer and network systems.

For more information about MCC’s cyber security programs, call 816.604.1000 or visit mcckc.edu.

For more tips on protecting yourself and your family online, visit staysafeonline.org.