It’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month!

Let’s celebrate by sharing some advice with those who need it. Here are five tips you can use to help your friends and relatives stay safe online.

It’s official: National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is here (well, actually, it’s international; Europe has already jumped in as well). And Kaspersky Lab North America is proud to be a Champion of the initiative, which has grown to become a progressive, global effort to promote cybersecurity education, online safety, and privacy.

At Kaspersky Lab, our mission is to save the world — and protecting the world from online threats is a very large part of the mission.

The simple truth is that we are all less secure than most people think. Up to 40 percent of people are still leaving their devices unprotected from online threats, according to our most recent Kaspersky Cybersecurity Index. But we have to learn together and stay vigilant against all kinds of cyberattacks — which are happening more and more frequently and show no signs of slowing down any time soon. So in recognition of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we present five simple tips that Internet users can use to stay secure and avoid threats online.

1. Be prepared for ransomware

Malware is one of the biggest threats to online security, and ransomware is a particularly insidious type of malware. Ransomware victims are ordered to pay actual money to restore their stolen information — information that, naturally, is no longer secure or private. Additionally, if your device is compromised by ransomware, hackers can obtain access to sensitive information such as Bitcoin wallets. Protect your data from ransomware by following these simple steps.

2. Choose passwords wisely (or use a password manager)

The most common password is 123456. And research indicates that more than half of Internet users choose the same password for everything they do online. A common password — 123456, qwerty, password, and the like — is easy to compromise, and reusing it allows an attacker entry to your other accounts after they’ve compromised just one. There are many ways to use passwords better, from choosing passwords that are multi-word phrases to incorporating numbers and special characters. But you can take your security to an even higher level by using a password manager, making your information nearly unhackable.

3. Protect your identity and security on social networks

In 2017, it’s hard to find someone who isn’t on at least one social network. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a dozen other platforms have become indelible parts of our lives, helping us to communicate, obtain news and opinions, and in some ways live our “real” lives online. But it’s important to approach social channels with eyes wide open. The information we put online could be used in various nefarious ways. Here are a few tips for keeping your identity safe online and some guidelines we suggest for healthy, safe social surfing.

4. Secure your Wi-Fi (or use a VPN)

At home or away, you’ll typically connect to the Internet over Wi-Fi. However, when a Wi-Fi connection is not set up and secured properly, it is an easy target for hackers. Follow these tips to secure your Wi-Fi and keep your data protected.

If for some reason you have no choice but to use a public Wi-Fi network (aka a hotspot), make sure you secure your connection by using a VPN (short for virtual private network). Using a VPN is a simple and cost-effective way to encrypt the data you are sending and receiving so that no third party can sneak a peek. Here’s a simple guide to choosing the VPN that’s right for you.

5. Keep software updated

A basic but crucial factor in securing your computer or smart device is keeping all software up to date; one big reason companies produce software updates is to patch vulnerabilities. Here is a more detailed rundown on the importance of software updates to your online security along with some advice on automating it.

We hope that for many readers, this has been a light refresher — preschool-level cybersecurity basics — but even if that was the case for you, consider your nearest and dearest, who may desperately need this advice so that they can be as well protected as you are. That’s what National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is about, after all.