The City of Independence wants to help improve the quality of life in our City by helping to create a safer environment for the public and families we serve. This commitment extends to cyber space, as well, by promoting safe cyber security practices.
This page is dedicated to providing the citizens of Independence with information to protect themselves and their families against today's leading cyber threats, including Internet fraud, malware, e-mail scams and other cyber threats.
Following these basic tips can minimize your risk of falling victim to most cyber threats.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software
Anti-virus programs can stop viruses, worms and other malware. Anti-spyware programs can stop malware that perform certain behaviors such as pop-up advertising, collecting personal information, or changing the configuration of your computer. It is important to keep these up-to-date by keeping the license active and the program set to auto-update.
- Regulary apply security updates and patches
It is important to keep your system and software up-to-date. System and software vendors often find vulnerabilities that they fix in the latest update. If your computer is not updated, then you are leaving it open to attack via these vulnerabilities. Set programs and systems to auto-update to avoid missing a critical update. This includes your operating system, office suite, Adobe, media players, browsers and other programs that can access the Internet.
- Always choose hard-to-guess passwords
Use strong passwords to secure your information. Passwords should have at least eight characters and include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. It's also important to keep different passwords for different types of accounts; for example, one password for online banking and financial sites, a different one for Facebook and another for your e-mail accounts.
- Only make secure online transactions
Only shop at sites for companies you are familiar with and trust. When shopping online, look for the lock symbol or https in the website URL to indicate the transactions are secure. Be wary of potential scams -- if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do not use a public computer or public wireless. Additionally you should make payments by using a credit card rather than a debit card, as credit cards are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act and may reduce your liability if your information was used improperly.
- Be wary of e-mail scams and phishing attempts
Phishing is a tactic to obtain your personal data, such as credit card numbers, passwords, account data, or other information. The scam typically attempts to entice e-mail recipients into clicking on a link or opening an attachment that results in malware being downloaded onto your computer. While it may be difficult to spot some phishing attempts it's important to be cautious about all communications you receive, including those purported to be from "trusted entities" and be careful when clicking on links or attachments contained within those messages. Additionally, do not respond to any unsolicited e-mails and do not open attachments contained in those messages.
- Protect your computer using firewalls
A firewall is a software program or hardware device that filters the inbound and outbound traffic between your network or computer and the Internet. A firewall is a very valuable tool to protect your data and your computers. Firewalls can block intruders and unwanted traffic from getting into your computer. Make sure your firewall is enabled.
- Use caution when sharing USB (thumb) drives
USB drives, sometimes known as thumb drives, are small, readily available, inexpensive, and extremely portable. They are popular for storing and transporting files from one computer to another, however, these same characteristics make them appealing to attackers and is now the leading method for transmitting malware from computer to computer. Be cautious using a shared USB drive for these reasons, and keeping your anti-virus software up-to-date will also help prevent infection via USB drives.
- Protect and secure you mobile devices
It is important to make sure you secure your portable devices to protect both the device and the information contained on the device. Establish a password and enable screen lock or auto lock on all devices. If your device has Bluetooth functionality and is not used, check to be sure this setting is disabled. Some devices have Bluetooth enabled by default. If the Bluetooth functionality is used, be sure to change the default password for connecting to a Bluetooth enabled device. Encrypt data and data transmissions whenever possible.
- Disconnect your computer from the Internet when not in use
Disconnecting from the Internet or just shutting down your computer after use can greatly minimize exposure to the Internet and thus help protect it when not in use. By disconnecting your computer's network cable or shutting it down may be one of the easiest ways you can protect it.
- Secure your home WiFi network
Wireless network devices out-of-the-box are not as secure as the traditional "wired" networks. You can minimize the risk of threats to your wireless network by enabling encryption keys, changing the default password on the wireless device, and changing the Service Set Identifier (SSID) name (which is the name of your WiFi network).
- Backup your computer data regularly
No system is completely secure. Copy important files onto a removable disc or an external hard drive, and store it in a safe place. If your computer is compromised, you’ll still have access to your files.
This web page is for informational purposes only and is provided "as is" without warranties, representations or guarantees of any kind. This is not a substitute for professional advice. The City of Independence is not responsible for any losses resulting from your reliance on this web page.