Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

This column reflects the opinion of the writer. Learn about the differences between a news story and an opinion column.

Dan Brown: Take individual steps to secure your identity and our world

By Dan Brown

By Dan Brown

Look around your house, your office, where you shop and even where you get your health care – technology is everywhere. It’s a significant part of all our lives and we rely on it moment to moment to be successful every day.

The world is constantly changing. As our reliance on technology and the internet grows, so does the opportunity for adversaries to use it against us. The trust we place in technology makes each of us vulnerable to threats. Cyberattacks, ransomware and identify theft are just a few of the ways we are targeted.

While all of this might sound a little scary, and it should, it’s not hopeless. As the nation’s cyber defense agency, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is offering a new campaign – Secure Our World – that offers steps everyone should follow to improve online safety.

Last year, the FBI listed Washington state as the 10th highest in number of cyber-crime victims with more than 12,000. Our state’s schools, businesses and agencies reported cybercrimes with total losses over $240 million. Only a fraction of a percent of cybercrimes are often reported, easily indicating thousands of cyberattacks are happening in Washington state every day. This is why our agency is poised to offer some help.

You’ve seen that message pop up on your phone or computer to update software or install security patches. Don’t ignore those messages. That’s all part of what you can do to Secure Our World. Here are a few other simple actions individuals and families can take to protect their information and stay safe online:

• Use strong passwords that are long, random and unique to each account. And use a password manager to generate them and to save them.

• Enable multifactor authentication on all accounts that offer it. This function sends a text to your phone, or you receive an email to ensure it is, indeed, you who is accessing the account. Enable this function, particularly for financial, health care, social media and other accounts detailing your personal information.

• Think before you click really means recognizing email phishing attempts. Be cautious of unsolicited emails, texts or calls asking you for personal information. Resist the urge to click on these links and don’t click on links or open attachments from unknown sources.

• Update software every time your device prompts you. In fact, enable automatic updates on software so the latest security patches keep devices continuously up to date. The Secure Our World website is a centralized hub for cybersecurity awareness resources. This is where you will find information on securing personal accounts, offering guidance on personal device safety, safe internet browsing practices, social media use and protecting personal information online. Secure Our World also includes support and resources for families. It provides guidance on implementing parental controls, fostering safe digital habits, and ensuring a secure online environment for children.

By equipping yourself with the knowledge and resources needed to stay safe while online you can protect yourself, your family, your community and our country from cyber threats and help secure our world.

Daniel Brown is the cybersecurity advisor for Eastern Washington and is based in Spokane. He supports the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency mission of leading the national effort to understand, manage, and reduce risk to our cyber and physical infrastructure. Prior to joining CISA, Dan worked in information technology and cybersecurity for more than 25 years.