GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, a great time for both consumers and businesses to take stock of their online security measures.

Cyber threats targeting personal and business interests continue to increase and it’s important to take whatever steps you can to secure your technology, data and personal information. Better Business Bureau® of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) offers tips for individuals and businesses to consider implementing.

1. October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. What should people be thinking about?

It’s a great time for consumers and business owners to take stock of the safety measures they have in place as far as their online footprint and to make sure they’re up to date. If there are some safeguards you haven’t put in place, now is a great time to get to those.

2. What can people do to keep themselves safe online?

Start with your computer. A computer should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall. That’s your first line of defense, so you want to make sure it’s as strong as possible. From there, be very selective as far as attachments and links you receive in emails – even from people you know. We know email accounts get hacked every day. Attachments and links in email can lead to viruses and malware and all kinds of issues.

3. How about fake or problematic websites? Are these a big issue?

They sure can be. We recommend that people stick to trustworthy websites. Some browsers and anti-virus programs will place green "check marks" in front of secure websites. If you see a red X, for instance, or get a warning saying the site you’re about to visit may not be secure, heed those warnings.

4. Are there other ways people can protect themselves?

When you visit websites, look for established trust marks like BBB’s online seal and click on those links to make sure they’re legitimate (and not just cut and pasted). Research companies you’re checking out online – by visiting – and when it’s time to make a purchase, pay with a credit card and make sure you’re on a page where you see HTTPS in the browser. That means you can be pretty comfortable you’re on a secure website.

5. How about privacy policies on different websites? Should we take time to read those?

Ideally, yes. Websites should have a privacy policy and they should be clear about what data they’ll be collecting from people who visit their site and what they do with that data. Will they sell it or share it with affiliate companies? It’s not very fun and we’re all busy, but it’s a really good habit to get into.