IT Security Tips and Tricks

The security of your devices and your data matters – for you, individually, and also for society. Disruptive cyber-actions can compromise the safety and security of yourself and others, and while there are no foolproof ways to stay safe online, there are simple ways to stave off most attacks.

CIRI’s Information Technology (IT) department has come up with tips to help average users protect their devices. Read on for ways to increase your security awareness and help prevent cyber-attacks before they happen.

Antivirus and Backup Solutions

Download antivirus software from vendors you trust. Purchasing a home version will offer the best protection – CIRI uses Bitdefender, and we routinely test it against new vulnerabilities – but there are plenty of free options such as those available from AVAST, AVG, AVIRA and Microsoft.

It is also important to back up your data on a regular basis as this is the only way you will be able to retrieve your data if your system security is compromised. Back up to an external hard drive and keep it disconnected while not performing backups, or use a cloud-hosted backup service like Google Drive.

Here are some additional tips that will help keep you secure while online:

  • Use an online DNS service (OpenDNS).
  • Check to make sure your Windows Firewall is turned on and up to date.
  • Install an ad blocker (Privacy Badger).
  • While public Wi-Fi is convenient, it generally is not secure and could enable a hacker to intercept your data. It is better to use a secure WiFi — for example, a password-protected WiFi network in your home — instead of using networks provided by coffee shops, hotels, etc.
  • Lock down your social media websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn by making them private. These sites can be utilized to obtain personal information about you. Only share data with friends or connections, and don’t accept invites from people you do not know.


Create very strong and complex passwords, and use a different password for every website.

  1. If you have difficulty remembering complex passwords, try using a passphrase like “myfavoritepizzaispepperoni.” This creates the base to your password.
  2. Now add four characters to the beginning: “AAaamyfavoritepizzaispepperoni.” (In this case, using As can customize your password for Amazon.)
  3. Finally, add four special characters to the end: “AAaamyfavoritepizzaispepperoni++!!” You now have a very strong 34-character password.

You can also test the strength of your passwords at, and easily keep track of your passwords by using a password manager such as KeePass Password Safe.


“Phishing” is a social-engineering tactic that attempts to trick you into divulging personal information such as your login ID and password, banking or credit card information. Phishing emails, texts and phone calls are designed to steal your identity and/or money.

Be suspicious of any email message or phone call asking for personal or financial information. If you receive such a message, contact the company to confirm whether the communication is legitimate. NEVER reply to or click the links in a suspicious email message. If you think the message may be legitimate, go directly to the company’s website (i.e., type the real URL into your browser) or contact the company to see if you really do need to take the action described in the message.


Make sure you have the latest version of all installed software on your devices. Turn ON automatic updates for your operating system, check for and take the time to install manufacturer updates and use secure web browsers, such as Chrome and Firefox. A third-party application, such as Secunia Personal Software Inspector, will automatically update installed applications on your PC.