It’s October: time to change your passwords

October marks National Cyber Security Awareness Month – an important reminder of the growing and ever-changing threats we face in cyberspace.

As we become more connected in our daily lives, it is also more important than ever that we understand the vulnerabilities we face and take steps to secure our most personal information. With the growing prevalence of social media, online banking and online shopping, more and more of our personal and financial information is stored and accessible to us online. However, this modern convenience also means that information is potentially accessible to others who might wish to use it for their own financial gain or other malicious purposes. 

That is why each October, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Cyber Security Alliance, and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center team up to sponsor National Cyber Security Awareness Month and help Americans better protect themselves online. There are common-sense steps that each of us can take to better secure our personal information and keep it from falling into the wrong hands.

Below are a few tips you can use to make sure you are doing everything possible to protect yourself online:

  • Set strong passwords and change them regularly.
  • Keep your operating system, browser, and other critical software as secure as possible by installing updates in a timely manner.
  • Limit the amount of personal information you post online, and use strong privacy settings to avoid sharing information widely.
  • Be cautious about what you receive or read online— if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

As the top Democrat on the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I have been laser-focused on improving cyber practices across our country and empowering agencies like the Department of Homeland Security to ensure our federal networks are protected against cyber attacks. Last year, Congress approved the bipartisan Cybersecurity Act of 2015. This important legislation included a number of provisions I championed to allow the federal government and the private sector to share cyber threat information, and to strengthen federal agencies’ defenses against cyberattack. I am proud of this bipartisan accomplishment that is already working to enhance our cybersecurity even as we continue to look for ways to improve. 

When it comes to cybersecurity, we cannot rest on our laurels. The threats we face online are growing and changing every day, and we must each remain vigilant in protecting our most personal information. Not just in October, but every day, I will continue to support efforts to improve cyber security across the federal government, and I hope each of you will also continue to practice safe “cyber hygiene” by keeping your personal cyber security in mind every time you go online to update social media accounts, make a purchase, or pay a bill.