National Cyber Security Awareness Month Promotes Every Day Steps Toward Online Safety
By James R. Lint
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Military University
Contributor, In Homeland Security
To increase public awareness of cyber security, the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are promoting their annual National Cyber Security Awareness Month this October. Each week of this campaign features a different theme.
The NCSA and DHS started National Cyber Security Awareness Month in October 2004. The NCSA partners with the U.S. government (including the White House) and the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) to communicate information about computer security to the public.
The first week of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) uses the theme of everyday computer safety with the motto “STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™” is a global, online safety awareness campaign to help all digital citizens stay safer and more secure online. According to the NCSA’s website, this message was created “by an unprecedented coalition of private companies, nonprofits and government organizations with leadership provided by the NCSA and the APWG.”
First Week of Campaign Focuses on Basic Ways to Protect Your Computer
The campaign’s focus on the basic ways to protect your computer is very powerful because viruses and ransomware often attack home and business computers, causing considerable havoc. Other computers may be hacked by someone who uses a worm to attack a network.
Now that so much of our activities are online, it is important for everyone to stop, think and connect. Because they are in a hurry and do not give enough thought to using safe cyber security practices, computer users are more likely to be hacked.
For example, many users do not take the time to check out hyperlinks before clicking on them. Hyperlinks may lead to a corrupt site that can infect a computer. As a result, a computer’s data can be adversely affected and the computer requires expensive repairs.
This campaign reminds people to take action in order to maintain their computer’s security. One reminder is to “keep a clean machine” by regularly updating security and operating software.
The campaign also discusses the need to protect all devices connected to the Internet because many people forget about phones and tablets when it comes to the need for cyber protection. Unfortunately, hackers do not forget phones or tablets as vectors to attack networks and more.
Another reminder involves the protection of personal information. This is a useful reminder since many people (about 21 million at last count) in the U.S. government lost their personal data in multiple hacks of networks and databases.
Making passwords long and unique is a useful method of preventing hackers from gaining access to your private information. Do not use the same password and login for multiple sites. If you do, you will be susceptible to a hacker breaking into all of your online accounts after the first breach. Hackers often attempt to enter as many of your accounts as possible after the first breach so that they can gain access to your money before you notice your accounts have been hacked. Straightening out your accounts takes a long time and can be expensive.
The third and last reminder of the campaign is to “connect with care.” Use your gut instinct to protect yourself from malicious hyperlinks in emails and ads. Check the source of a hyperlink before you click on that link or put an email in the trash.
Also, be careful when you’re connecting to unknown Wi-Fi spots. Some Wi-Fi hotspots can be fake, allowing criminals to give you free Wi-Fi while they take your information and passwords. Be careful when you use “free” public Wi-Fi, because these free services can come at a risk.
About the Author
James R. Lint recently retired as the (GG-15) civilian director for intelligence and security, G2, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command. He is an adjunct professor at AMU. Additionally, James started the Lint Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit charity that recently awarded their 43rd scholarship for national security students and professionals. He has 38 years of experience in military intelligence within the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, contractor and civil service.
James was also elected as the 2015 national vice president for the Military Intelligence Corps Association. In 2016 he was accepted as a member of the Military Writers Guild. He has served in the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis and at the Department of Energy’s S&S Security Office. James had an active military career in the Marine Corps for seven years and also served 14 years in the Army. His military assignments include South Korea, Germany and Cuba in addition to numerous CONUS locations. James has authored a book published in 2013, “Leadership and Management Lessons Learned,” and a new book in 2016 “8 Eyes on Korea, A Travel Perspective of Seoul, Korea.”
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