Act During National Cyber Security Awareness Month

National Cyber Security Awareness MonthWe are more connected to people around the world than ever before.  Many of us depend on the Internet in our daily lives, from shopping at home, to paying bills, banking on our mobile devices to sharing information with friends and business partners across the globe.  Our growing reliance on technology reminds us that our digital infrastructure is not just a convenience, but a necessity.  Can you imagine your life without the Internet?

The most serious economic and security challenges we face are cyber threats.  This is not just true in the United States, but everywhere.  Economic prosperity and competitiveness in the 21st Century depends on effective cybersecurity and ensuring the safety of everyone online.  We live in a global economy and everything from power, to education, commerce and public safety relies on the Internet.

Recognizing the importance of cybersecurity, President Obama designated October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM).  NCSAM is designed to engage and educate public and private sector partners through events and initiatives with the goal of raising awareness about cybersecurity and increasing the resiliency of the nation in the event of a cyber incident.  State and local governments are also encouraged to issue proclamations or letters in support of this initiative.

October 2012 marks the ninth annual NCSAM sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security in cooperation with the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC).  Even though this is a US initiative, the message is applicable to everyone.

The overall theme this year is to “ACT – Achieve Cybersecurity Together”.  This reflects the interconnectedness of the modern world and the responsibility of each of us in securing cyberspace.  NCSAM 2012 will focus on a different critical cybersecurity issue each week in October.

Stop Think Connect Week One:
Emphasizes general cybersecurity awareness and the Stop.Think.Connect.™ Campaign
Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Week Two:
Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity
Focuses on national and local efforts to prevent identity theft and other cyber crimes
Industry Efforts in Cybersecurity Week Three:
Industry Efforts in Cybersecurity
Highlights strategies and tools businesses of all sizes – including small business – can use to bolster their own cybersecurity defenses
Digital Literacy Efforts Week Four:
K-Life: Digital Literacy Efforts
Showcases the urgent need to develop cyber education programs to train the next generation cyber workforce


With malware, botnets, phishing schemes and viruses, the internet is ripe with opportunity for mischief.  We should be past things like the Nigerian email scams, but unfortunately many people still fall for them.  Hopefully people are getting wiser to these scams, but you still have to be diligent.  Here are a few simple rules to follow as you work or play on the Internet.

  1. Know who you are dealing with.  If you receive an unsolicited message from someone, be careful.  It may be from a legitimate business or acquaintance, but check it out first.  Don’t click on a link that offers you something free or tries to play on your emotions.  Hover over any links with your mouse to see where it goes before clicking.  If you know it’s legitimate, you are probably safe.
  2. Run security software and keep it updated.  This seems very obvious, but it’s amazing how many people don’t do it.  Install anti-virus and anti-malware software and make sure it automatically updates.  The same goes for a simple firewall.  Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X and most Linux distributions come with built-in firewalls.  Turn them on and keep them up to date.  Mobile devices are getting better, but are still vulnerable too. 
  3. Update your operating system.  The major PC operating systems have automatic update mechanisms to install the latest patches and updates.  Microsoft and Apple regularly issue security updates to patch any vulnerabilities.  Turn on the automatic updates and make sure they work.  Also make sure that any applications you run locally have their auto update features turned on.  It’s amazing how many attacks on computers are successful because systems are not patched.
  4. Set strong passwords and don’t share them with anyone.  Every time there’s a hack of a vulnerable system and passwords are exposed, it never fails to amaze me how many people still use “123456” and “password”.  Use two-factor authentication if its available.  New biometric and other systems are becoming more prevalent, but most online systems still use a simple user name and password.
  5. Limit the personal information you put online.  This is true for sites like Facebook, Google+ and other social networking sites.  A little social engineering from personal information can cause a lot of damage.

Whether you are on a desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet or other computing device, think before you take an action.  Criminals are always trying to stay one step ahead of us and keep developing new ways to trick us into revealing information or giving them money.

Remember that most scams and malicious internet behavior is to get you to part with your money.  Think before you Click and you are well on your way to independence from cybercrime.

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