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Now more than ever, we rely on the Internet for a significant part of our everyday lives, allowing us to work, socialize and shop online. Unfortunately, as we've highlighted in many of our columns, cybercriminals also benefit from that same convenience and accessibility.

That's why the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) team up each October for National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

The theme again this year is "Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart," and emphasizes the importance of individuals and businesses taking steps to protect themselves online.

In partnership with these agencies, your Better Business Bureau (BBB) also offers BBB.org/cybersecurity, a site that is devoted to sharing tips and resources to help you minimize the chance that your personal or work-related information could be compromised.

Here's a condensed list of BBB's tips. We encourage you to visit the site for expanded tips and information:

- In social media, don't be too quick to click on ads that offer improbably good deals. Research companies with BBB.org and other online sources before you buy.

- When making online purchases, be sure the site is secure, and consider using a credit card for payment, which offers you the greatest protection.

- You should secure your smart devices just like you would for your PC or laptop. Consider installing anti-malware on your smartphone. Be sure to use privacy settings for apps and remove any apps you're no longer using. Keep your software up to date.

- Use multi-factor authentication to secure your logins—everywhere. However, using your private phone number for that purpose could expose you to some risks. Consider creating an Internet phone number for online authentication instead.

- Change passwords often, and keep them long and strong. Use a mix of upper and lower-case letters along with numbers and symbols. Or consider the use of a pass phrase that is more complex and may be more secure.

- Learn the warning signs of phishing scams, including the Business Email Compromise (BEC), which involves email messages that falsely claim to be from your boss. Bogus emails may contain file attachments that could wreak havoc by downloading spyware or malware on your computer or phone. Clicking on the wrong link can do the same.

- Get the facts before you consider investing in cryptocurrency. Detailed tips are offered at BBB.org/crypto.

- Manage a business or a nonprofit? See BBB tips on the 5-step approach to strengthen your cybersecurity.

Also, keep in mind - it's not just your paper documents that need to be disposed of safely. Old computer hard drives no longer in use need to be destroyed as well.

To help you accomplish this, your BBB is partnering with local companies and agencies to co-host two events during October that provide free document shredding and hard drive destruction. You can also recycle electronics and dispose of unneeded prescription medicines at both events.

Here's the schedule: (Please note that the onsite shredding will stop early if the trucks fill up):

* On Friday, October 15th for Hixson: 9 a.m. to noon at the Clear Creek Church of Christ, 5612 Hixson Pike

* On Saturday, October 30th for Chattanooga: 9 a.m. to noon at the Metro Tab Church 2101 Shepherd Rd (Intersection of Shepherd & Hwy 153)

In Cleveland, your BBB is participating in the Household Hazardous Waste Day to offer free document shredding on Saturday October 16th from 8:00 a.m. to noon. The event will be held at the Bradley County Justice Center 2230 Blythe Avenue SE. Other agencies will be offering additional services. For more information please call your BBB's office in Cleveland at 423-475-8676.

For more online safety tips, please visit us at BBB.org, and visit CISA.gov to learn more about National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

Have you encountered cybercrime? Please report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker and IC3.gov/Complaint.

Michele Mason is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.

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