The Ocean City Police Department is observing the eighth annual National Cyber Security Awareness Month by reminding citizens of the importance of preventing, detecting and responding to cyber attacks.  National Cyber Security Awareness Month, which is sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security in cooperation with the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), is an opportunity to provide citizens with valuable information on how they can protect themselves and their devices.

Among the dangers associated with cyber security are viruses erasing your entire system, someone breaking into your system and altering files, someone using your computer to attack others or someone stealing your credit card information and making unauthorized purchases.  With millions of people relying on computers, smart phones and the Internet, the Ocean City Police Department wants consumers to be protected when using their devices to email, shop, bank and stay in touch and socialize with businesses, family and friends. 

This year’s theme for National Cyber Security Awareness Month, “Our Shared Responsibility,” emphasizes the role that individuals, families, schools, organizations and governments have to help create a safer digital world.  Below, are several steps to help protect your online devices and personal information:

  1. Defend your computer and strengthen your computer’s defenses.  Remember to keep all software (including your web browser) current with automatic updating. Also, install legitimate antivirus and anti-spyware software. Never turn off your firewall and password protect your wireless router.  Also, use flash drives cautiously. If one of them has a virus, it could infect your computer.
  2. Protect sensitive or personal information:  Before you enter sensitive data, look for signs that the webpage is secure (for example: a web address with “https” and a closed padlock beside it are good indications).  Also, never give sensitive information (like an account number, password or social security number) in response to a request in an email message, IM or on a social network.  Finally, don’t respond to pleas for money from “family members,” deals that sound too good to be true,  lotteries you didn’t enter or other scams.
  3. Create strong passwords and keep them secret:  Make your passwords long phrases or sentences that mix capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Also, use different passwords for different sites, especially those that keep financial information.
  4. Take charge of your online safety and reputation: Discover what is on the Internet about you and periodically evaluate what you find.
  5. Use social networks safely:  When using social networks, look for settings or options in services like Facebook and Twitter to manage who can see your profile or photos with your name. Remember not to post anything you wouldn’t want to see on a billboard and be selective about the friends you accept. Periodically assess who has access to your pages and review what they post about you.
  6. Take extra steps to help keep kids safe online:  It is important to make online safety a family effort. Use a mix of guidance and monitoring in your household. Negotiate clear guidelines for web and online game use that fit your child’s maturity, age and family values.  Make sure you are paying attention to what kids do and who they meet online.

For more cyber security tips, visit the Ocean City Police Department Blog at http://ocpdmdinfo.blogspot.com/ or visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website at http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/.