October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month

Oct. 6, 2017
by Mark Ollig

As we enter October, we’re feeling cooler temperatures, along with seeing the autumn leaves changing into their beautiful red, orange, yellow, brown, and purple colors.

The month ends with Halloween and its lighted pumpkins, ghostly decorations, and the sights and sounds of costumed children happily trick-or-treating.

October is also when the folks at the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) call our attention to National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM).

Cyber is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “of, relating to, or involving computers or computer networks (such as the internet).”

To me, cybersecurity is protection of computing devices, websites, and the internet from those attempting unauthorized acquisition of their secured and personal data.

Cybersecurity is also applicable for the prevention of intentional disruption of the internet, and its connected devices and websites.

You may find it interesting to know the word “cybersecurity” was first used in 1989, as were latte, air quotes, hypertext markup language, hot link, minidisc, bioplastic, and Generation X.

However, I digress, back to today’s topic.

The DHS NCSAM webpage recognizes the internet is woven into much of our daily lives.

Its webpage provides resources for staying vigilant against national cyber incidents, and information for protecting personal data residing on our computing devices from being compromised.

Cybercriminals will attempt illegal entry into computer systems and websites belonging to anyone; whether it’s government agencies, Fortune 500 corporations, or the businesses in our local community.

They will also target the personal computer in our home, or the wireless smartdevice we use on the go.

Every country, community, and citizen is susceptible to a cyber-attack resulting in a privacy breach of sensitive information.

The DHS suggests the following ways to protect our online information from being compromised:

• Set strong passwords, change them regularly, and don’t share them with anyone.

• Keep your computer’s operating system, browser, and other critical software optimized by installing updates.

• Maintain an open dialogue with your friends, family, and colleagues about internet safety.

• Use privacy settings and limit the amount of personal information you post online.

• Be cautious about offers online – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Other precautions include having anti-virus security software actively monitoring your computer’s interactions with online websites.

Perform scheduled backups of your computer’s data to a physical drive or storage server in the cloud. This ensures accessibility to your data in the event your computer crashes, or becomes compromised by a malicious software (malware), or computer hacker.

When not using your home computer, unplug or disconnect any physically-cabled internet connection; this will prevent an online virus, malware program, or hacker from accessing your computer’s files and personal information.

Of course, our mobile devices have wireless internet connections using cellular data, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.

DHS has a separate mobile device security (MDS) program for addressing the cybersecurity issues for protecting our wireless computing devices.

Learn more about the DHS MDS Project at http://bit.ly/2wviVYz.

Remember: there is no absolute “delete button” for removing content once it’s posted on the internet.

Deleting a text comment, photo, or video you posted on a blog or social media network doesn’t mean it’s gone. Someone might have downloaded or taken a screenshot of the data and saved it. The social media site you posted on may have archived it.

The DHS suggests we ask ourselves this question before posting information viewable by the public, “Am I comfortable sharing this information with the whole world?”

To receive the regularly updated DHS cybersecurity newsletter, sign up at http://bit.ly/2xQeGdW.

Follow me on Twitter at @bitsandbytes. Also, check out my online blog at https://bitscolumn.blogspot.com.

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