In 2004, the Department of Homeland Security and the National CyberSecurity Alliance, a nonprofit educational organization contained within the agency, launched National CyberSecurity Awareness Month with the intention of warning Americans about developing online threats. Today, both private citizens and commercial entities have come to recognize the importance of cybersecurity awareness, as technology becomes further entwined with everyday life and business.
Last February, polling officials from Gallup asked more than 1,000 Americans aged 18 and older to cite the most critical threat the U.S. faces over the next decade. Approximately 78 percent of respondents said cyberterrorism. In February of this year, analysts for the Business Continuity Institute conducted a similar poll, asking personnel from over 720 organizations worldwide to identify the most serious dangers facing modern businesses, Bloomberg reported. Nearly 90 percent of respondents said they believed cyberattacks were the No. 1 threat.
Private citizens and enterprises are right to worry, as recent events – most notably the latest Equifax hack – have shown. Last year alone, hackers executed more than 42,000 separate attacks, orchestrated over 1,000 breaches and made away with roughly 36 million sensitive files, according to research from Verizon Wireless and the Identity Theft Resource Center. For the average business, mitigating one of these incidents costs around $3.62 million, researchers from IBM and the Ponemon Institute found. While private breach victims can usually avoid extravagant expenses, re-securing stolen personal information takes considerable time and effort.
In short, National CyberSecurity Awareness Month has moved out of the shadows of the information technology department into the mainstream.
Week 1 (October 2-6): Simple Steps to Online Safety
DHS offers a thematic outline for IT professionals and data security enthusiasts who wish to actively take part in National CyberSecurity Awareness Month. Every year, the agency uses each week in October to address a specific data security subject and stoke nationwide conversation on that topic.
This year, the first week, Oct. 2-6, is dedicated to the DHS’ online safety program for consumers, which offers workable strategies for safely navigating the web-based marketplace.
All members of the public can take some simple actions to protect themselves online and to recover in the event a cyber incident occurs. In week 1, discover the top consumer cybersecurity concerns and learn simple steps to protect against these concerns.
- Be aware of the top cyber scams, such as tech support pop-ups, tax scams, FBI audits and ransomware and more
- Enable stronger authentication. Always enable stronger authentication for an extra layer of security beyond the password that is available on most major email, social media and financial accounts. Stronger authentication (e.g., multi-factor authentication that can use a one-time code texted to a mobile device) helps verify that a user has authorized access to an online account. For more information about authentication, visit the new Lock Down Your Login Campaign at www.lockdownyourlogin.com.
- Make your passwords long & strong. Use complex passwords with a combination of numbers, symbols, and letters. Use unique passwords for different accounts. Change your passwords regularly, especially if you believe they have been compromised.
- Keep a clean machine. Update the security software, operating system, and web browser on all of your Internet-connected devices. Keeping your security software up to date will prevent attackers from taking advantage of known vulnerabilities.
- When in doubt, throw it out. Links in email and online posts are often the way cyber criminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious (even if you know the source), delete it.
- Share with care. Limit the amount of personal information you share online and use privacy settings to avoid sharing information widely
Following along with RedVector
Here at RedVector, we will be publishing a series of blog posts touching on various key topics in the cybersecurity space over the course of National CyberSecurity Awareness Month. Stay tuned for further content exploring how hackers are attacking critical hardware and software, and the methods enterprises are using to stop them.