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October 15, 2019

October Is Cybersecurity Awareness Month—Here's Why It Matters

As the internet and smartphones become more and more ubiquitous, it’s clear that cybersecurity awareness is not just for IT professionals. Although these individuals have dedicated their lives to securing the data of users and organizations alike, it’s the responsibility of every internet user to know what’s going on with their data. That’s where Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) comes in.

What Is NCSAM?

NCSAM is a collaborative effort between government and industry to educate and equip every American in the battle against cyber threats. The project is now in its 16th year, and it continues to gain momentum as organizers enlist more participants and reach out to more people.

NCSAM was started in 2004 as a partnership between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). The project is now led by NCSA and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) of the U.S. government. The mission of the CISA is to partner with industry and government to understand and manage risk to the nation's critical infrastructure. Their vision is a secure and resilient infrastructure for the American people.

Every October, NCSA and CISA work together with stakeholders across the country to make people aware of the cyber threats we all face. These efforts include social media campaigns, speaking engagements, webinars, the NCSAM Champion program, and the distribution of cyber safety educational materials. Participating organizations and individuals are encouraged to spread the word, host events, and include NCSAM information in their internal and external communications.

Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.

In the tradition of a good marketing campaign, NCSAM organizers have come up with a theme designed to focus our attention on important aspects of cybersecurity. It’s all part of a campaign to awaken the general public to the need for cybersecurity awareness. The new slogan is easy to remember, and it can be broken down into memorable and teachable components. Below, read up on each aspect of the campaign as well as actionable security steps from the National Cyber Security Alliance and the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies.

Own IT: Understand Your Digital Profile

Like it or not, we are all heavily invested in our digital presence. Most of us have password logins scattered across myriad websites, and our internet usage is now a standard utility like electricity and water. Although we go online many times a day, we may not realize how vulnerable we are. The first step in cybersecurity awareness, according to NCSAM, is to become keenly aware of all the internet devices and applications that we use every day. It pays to take inventory, understand the scope of our online footprint, and educate ourselves on our own personal threat surface.

Take Action: Make a list of all the connected devices and apps you regularly use, check and update your app permissions and privacy settings across sites and social media platforms, and be mindful of what you post on social media.

Secure IT: Secure Your Digital Profile

Armed with this new awareness of your online usage, it’s time to lock it down. There are a number of things that you can do. For starters, routinely check to make sure that you’re taking advantage of all the security features in each software. Take it upon yourself to protect your applications and data in every possible way. Ask yourself questions like, am I using multi-factor authentication to secure my access? Have I thought about using a virtual private network (VPN)? Are my passwords strong and secure? Is all of my security software up-to-date?

Take Action: Make sure you create strong, unique passwords, turn on multi-factor authentication, don’t fall for phishing, only shop on secured, legitimate e-commerce websites, and don’t auto-connect to wireless networks, especially while traveling.

Protect IT: Maintain Your Digital Profile

Once you get an idea of how to secure your data, it’s time to learn what you can do to maintain that security. It goes without saying that the average user can’t be expected to know all the complexities of cyber security protection. From web application security to digital certificates, there are so many protocols and practices involved that the average person cannot master them all. But every internet user should learn what they can do to keep their online traffic secure for the foreseeable future. Social media profiles, smart devices, apps, personal and work computers, and the like need to be taken into account for the long-term.

Take Action: Always update to the latest security software, web browser and operating systems, take steps to protect customer and client data if you collect it, secure your home, including your WiFi network and smart home apps, and don’t engage with social media bots, theft scams, imposter scams, or debt collection scams.

The point of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is to get people to think—and then take action! Unfortunately, we have to stay secure all the time, but the hacker only has to succeed once to wreak havoc on your digital profile. It’s serious business, and it requires constant vigilance. To learn more about National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and for more information on cybersecurity in general, go to or view their online video. The more you know, the better you will be able to protect your important online assets.

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