Talking Security this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is all about family time, so it’s also the perfect time to discuss some online security tips with all generations.  First, understand that online security advice often goes in one ear and out the other. Many people choose to believe that attacks would never happen to them, but they can, and likely will.  Failing to be cautious is like leaving the front door to your home wide open and assuming that a criminal would never walk in to pay a visit.

Here’s some help with terms and definitions, even if you’re not the family tech whiz.


It’s important for anyone who uses the Internet to know how to avoid getting “reeled in” by online criminals.  Phishers are often the originators of spam e-mail messages—especially the ones that mention a problem with an account and ask for personal information to deal with some urgent issue.  If you receive an e-mail like this, attempt to confirm the validity of the message.You can do this by picking up the telephone and calling the organization or business in question or by visiting their official website. DO NOT click any links in the questionable email message and DO NOT give the sender of the message any personal information.

Password managers 

A password manager is a software application or hardware device that is used to store and manage a person’s passwords.  Typically, all passwords are stored encrypted (hidden), requiring the user to create a master password to access all the others.


A patch or update is a set of software changes that are designed to update a computer program to improve it or fix a problem.  Since these are often intended to fix features that are not working as intended or to add security enhancement, it is very important to keep these current.

Two factor authentication

Two-factor authentication, or 2FA as it's commonly abbreviated, adds an extra step to your basic log-in procedure. Without 2FA, you enter in your username and password, and then you're done. The password is your single factor of authentication. Using the second factor makes your account more secure.  This may be a PIN, a password, a fingerprint or another identifying factor.

Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat…they’re all very popular.  After all, it’s sometimes fun to see everyone’s pictures, opinions, activities, and more.  It can even be great for keeping in touch with extended family or old high school friends.  Still, it’s a double edged sword, so there are a few factors to keep in mind regarding privacy and safety.

One thing to consider is that most of these social media platforms are free.  This is possible because YOU, the user, are their product. Social media providers may offer networking opportunities, but in turn, you are sharing your viewing habits, contact lists, and more.  This can be filtered to determine what you should or should not see, including political opinion or articles promoted by advertisers who want access to you.  They can even use your information to sell your habits, views, shopping detail, etc. to others who can also use this information for profit.  Every company that advertises online is interested in knowing what sites you visit, what you buy, who you are friends with on social networks, what you like and more. By gathering information about your online activities they can serve you targeted ads that are more likely to entice you to buy something.

You can limit some of your information by utilizing the privacy setting options and limiting the information you share.  It is also important to know your followers or “friends”. Decide whether you are comfortable with those people having access to your information and photos.

Virus and Malware Protection

A virus is a very small computer program capable of embedding itself into files and/or computer programs. There are several types of viruses, some are very simple but yet annoying, while other, more advanced viruses will attempt to crack passwords, spam a network generating thousands of emails, install key loggers, etc. If you are on a network and you open an unsafe attachment, there’s a very good chance that you are transmitting the virus throughout the network.  Malware is an umbrella term that can describe a variety of malicious software, including Trojans, spyware, worms, adware, ransomware, and viruses.  So, all viruses are malware, but not all malware are viruses. 

How do you protect your computer from malware (including viruses)?  

There are several software options on the market, but most carry all the same benefits.  Most experts recommend a layered approach.  It’s best to choose a program that protects against all threats, rather than just one

Now that you have some ideas to share with your family, here’s your chance to win a $300 Amazon Gift Card!  

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