October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Perhaps it is fitting that cyber security be highlighted during one of the scariest months of the year. The idea that a malicious party can easily steal our very personal and important information in a cyber attack may be much more frightening than any ghost, goblin, or ghoul.

From common cyber crimes like stolen credit card information or social security numbers to serious cases of cyber extortion, for dangers both big and small it is important to consider cyber security.

As businesses, nonprofits, and higher educational institutions, you handle financial transactions, communicate with clients, and store data online. So how can you protect yourself, not only during cyber security month, but all year long?

  • Small businesses are extremely vulnerable to cyber-attacks. According to the federal government, over 70% of cyber-attacks are targeted towards businesses with fewer than 100 employees. To decrease these startling numbers, make sure that your software is up to date, test your systems regularly, and always use multiple-step verification practices.
  • It is also best practice for a nonprofit to ensure that your software is up to date and your networks and email addresses are protected by two-step verification. You may also want to consider cyber liability insurance, which will also help your organization pay the steep legal costs it may acquire in the case of a breach.
  • Higher educational institutions should ensure that classified information, like student records, is encrypted and not stored using cloud services. In addition, you should also take steps to know which devices are on your campus. A hacker can cause a lot of damage simply by having a cell phone, a malware package, and access to your network.

As we highlight National Cyber Security Awareness Month, make sure that your technology systems and important data are protected. Create a cyber security plan. Update your software. Encrypt your data. Put in place authentication practices. Even consider different insurance plans.

From scary movies to haunted houses, this October we have enough things to be afraid of. A cyber attack doesn’t have to be one of them.