We Love our Online Devices — now It’s Time to Show Them We Care

By Ann-Marie Westgate

Fall is often a time when we think about new starts and new beginnings. Like many parents, I have a stepson starting university. As a security professional, I worry about an online world that has become even more “virtualized” as a result of COVID-19. Not only are classes online, but bank accounts, student loans, social events and the bookstore exist only in this virtual space. Students connect with other students, their professors, academic advisors, teaching assistants and others using their smartphones, computers and other devices.

image of secure lock over hands on keyboard

As we launch these young people into their adult life, I wonder if all these online services have been secured to help students be successful. I also wonder if we have provided enough guidance to help students make the right choices in protecting their own intellectual property, personal information and the massive amounts of digital memorabilia that young people create and hold valuable.

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month in Canada. This year, the Get Cyber Safe campaign — a national public awareness campaign — asks us to reflect on how we protect our personal computers, mobile phones, networks and the other smart devices we use to access our online world. Canadians spend a lot of time online – 91 per cent of us aged 15 years or older have internet access, with more than three-quarters of us spending at least three to four hours online per day. We access the internet with our smartphones or mobile devices (72 per cent), our computers (85 per cent), our gaming consoles, TVs, and increasingly, with smart speakers (more than 25 per cent). We love our online devices more than ever, and it’s time to show them we care. Keep them updated, keep them protected and keep them secure.

Cybersecurity Tips

  • Take stock of network connected devices
  • Apply security patches and review security settings
  • Set password protection on laptops and mobile devices
  • Create a separate wireless network for smart devices
  • Review network settings and change wireless passphrases

Let’s start by taking stock as a family. What are all the internet-connected devices in our household? Our first step is to know which devices are online. Next, we should ensure that each of these devices has the most up-to-date security patches and settings. Phones and laptops, even those belonging to our youngest family members, should be configured with passwords so that if they are lost or stolen, the information is protected. Because they can introduce security risks, consider putting smart devices such as speakers and home security cameras on a separate wireless network. Periodically review your home network settings and create strong wireless passphrases. The whole family can participate in these activities.

Find out more about Canada’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month initiative by visiting the getcybersafe.gc.ca website . Follow, like and share your thoughts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Use #getcybersafe, #cyber, #cybersecurity in your posts during the month of October and help spread the word. Together, we can ensure that our devices get the attention they need to keep our online activities secure.

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About the author
Ann-Marie Westgate

Ann-Marie Westgate

Ann-Marie Westgate is a cybersecurity expert with extensive experience in data protection and compliance. She provides leadership, strategic direction and operational administration within Infoway’s information security program, and security leadership to the broader stakeholder and digital health communities. When not hunting cyber threats, Ann-Marie is an avid backyard bird watcher.