CyberSmart Internet Safety Tips

Author: Kirsten Barber

As more and more North Carolinians are working, learning or just consuming more digital content from their homes due to COVID-19, there has never been a better time to talk about internet safety. Cybercriminals use emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic to steal personal information or business data. Scams can be carried out through email, text, social media posts and even legitimate-looking websites. The following data theft prevention tips were shared by the NC Department of Information Technology.

When Working From Home

You are your company's best defense against cybercriminals. Take these steps to ensure you are protecting business data and customer information while working from home.

  • Make sure you know your organization’s telework policies and what apps are allowed on company devices.
  • Use Virtual Private Networks (VPN), which provide secure encrypted direct connections to a company's network.
  • Update your home router’s software to the most current version and make sure it is secured with a lengthy, unique passphrase that you can remember.
  • Avoid downloading or clicking on unknown links in emails, especially if you don't know the sender. Be wary of hyperlinks in emails from unknown senders as well.
  • Create strong passwords. Be sure to include a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Make them difficult enough that someone can’t guess them.
  • Don’t share passwords online. If you must share login information with a coworker, call them with the details instead of sending via email, text or instant message.
  • Although it can be inconvenient, two-factor authentication, if available, provides an extra layer of security to keep hackers from accessing accounts.
  • Do not try to fix technical issues yourself. Call your IT department for assistance.

Staying Safe Online

Not only are North Carolinians working from home, but the Stay At Home Order that went into effect on March 30, 2020, has prompted students to learn from home as well. With more people staying at home, online browsing, gaming and researching may have increased within certain households. Precautions should be taken by all internet users in a household to ensure a device is not compromised and sensitive information is protected.

  • Think before you click! Hackers often use fake websites that masquerade as others or that pretend to offer information on a popular topic. These websites are set up to trick users into handing over sensitive information or install malware onto a device.
  • Only provide personal information on sites you trust. Sensitive information could be addresses, phone numbers, birthdate, Social Security number, driver’s license number or financial information.
  • Update privacy settings on social media accounts so only the people you know are seeing what you share.
  • Free games and other things might be tempting, but they can come at a cost to your privacy.  Only download from trusted sources, even if you might have to pay.
  • Shut down your computer when you aren't using it.

If You Think You're a Victim

  • If you think business data may have been stolen, alert the appropriate people within the company.
  • Watch your accounts if you feel that your personal financial data was stolen. Contact your financial institution immediately if you see any unusual activity like unexplainable charges.
  • After reporting potential data compromises or if you are wary, change your password. If changing passwords to multiple accounts, ensure that all the new passwords are different.


Learn more about how you can be CyberSmart and protect sensitive data.

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