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Cybersecurity Expert Gives Tips To Stay Safe Online

Think before you click on a link, regularly check your social media security settings and pay more attention to what information you could accidentally reveal in a “selfie” posted online.

Those were some of the tips given by a cybersecurity expert who spoke March 9 at the University of West Florida Conference Center.

Glenda Snodgrass, who is the lead consultant and project manager at The Net Effect, gave those recommendations and many others in a wide ranging talk entitled “Cyber Self Defense: Protecting Your Online Identity.” The talk was part of the UWF Center for Cybersecurity’s Lecture Series and efforts to promote cybersecurity awareness in the community, and was sponsored by UWF’s Center for Cybersecurity, the College of Business and the College of Science and Engineering.

“(Snodgrass) is primarily engaged in drafting network security protocols and developing security awareness training programs, in addition to conducting security related workshops and delivering cybersecurity defense presentations,” said Dr. Eman El-Sheikh, director for the Center for Cybersecurity, who introduced Snodgrass.

The ways information can be stolen online are on the rise, and cybercrime is now more profitable than the illegal drug trade, Snodgrass said.

“So it’s not about hacking anymore; it’s about making money,” Snodgrass said. “Once it becomes about making money, it’s for profit, not for fun. All the rules change and the scale changes.”

Whenever someone surfs the World Wide Web, they should have a heightened awareness, similar to what they would exhibit if they were traveling to an unfamiliar place, Snodgrass said.

“Every email that you open, every link that you click on in a browser is another bus ride, another train ride, another plane ride to another city, another state, another country,” Snodgrass said. “If you take that level of awareness with you when you are reading email or surfing on the Internet, it will change your perspective. It will raise your skepticism.”

Snodgrass showed examples of information that had accidentally been revealed – such as Wi-Fi passwords – from photos that had been posted online. Other critical information, including location, could be available in “selfie” photos and they should be closely examined before being posted online, Snodgrass said.

While antivirus software should be installed on all computers, it shouldn’t be the sole line of protection because some anti-virus scanners can’t catch up to new malware, Snodgrass said.

Snodgrass also recommended against modifying a phone from its factory settings, a process commonly referred to as rooting.

“Rooting your phone is like going home and taking all the doors and all the windows out of the frames and putting them in the attic,” she said. “You have no protection whatsoever on your device when you root it.”

Coming up with strong passwords for email and social media accounts was also recommended by Snodgrass. She said those passwords should also not be reused or recycled.  

“Cybercrime is big business, and criminals are increasingly exploiting people to circumvent automated protection systems,” Snodgrass said.

This article is part of a collaboration between WUWF and the UWF Center for Research and Economic Opportunity.


Richard Conn works as a staff writer for the Center for Research and Economic Opportunity at the University of West Florida.