While cybersecurity is a year-round concern, October is the month agencies around the world hold awareness events to draw extra focus to the importance of cybersecurity. In the U.S., 2020 will mark the 17th annual National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, while the EU has recognized October as European Cybersecurity month since 2012. Why the special month for extra awareness? Because cybersecurity is an area of vital importance for anyone who uses the internet – which is nearly everyone.
National Cybersecurity Awareness Month
In the U.S., National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a public-private partnership between the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a federal agency established in 2018. Prior to that, the Department of Homeland Security partnered with NCSA on the awareness event that was meant to help remind Americans to stay safe online – back when it began in 2004 the focus was on best practices like updating antivirus software twice a year.
Today, of course, things are much more sophisticated. More than just computers are connected to the internet, and the Week 1 message is “If you connect it, protect it.” It highlights how “internet-connected devices have impacted our lives and will empower all users to own their role in security by taking steps to reduce their risks.” Subsequent weeks’ themes are “Securing Devices at Home and at Work,” “Securing Internet-Connected Devices in Healthcare,” and “The Future of Connected Devices.” The overall message of the month is “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.”
European Cybersecurity Month
In Europe, the October cybersecurity month campaign is a joint effort of the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) and the European Commission, and it is supported by EU Member States and partners that include governments, universities, private sector businesses, and more.
The official motto of ECSM 2020 is “Think Before U Click.” Like the U.S. campaign, it is focused on the fact that nearly all aspects of life today are connected and staying aware is essential. Two themes comprise ECSM 2020: Digital Skills, which provides information on e-privacy matters like data protection and cyber stalking, and Cyber Scams, which educates the public about cyber threats like phishing, shopping fraud, and other scams. ECSM emphasizes the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has created an increasingly digitalized and hyperconnected world, requiring increased vigilance and skills from everyone.
Take part wherever you are
The world is connected and is becoming more so all the time. The Internet of Things (IoT) means that everything from cars to refrigerators to sprinkler systems are connected to the internet, and therefore a potential area of weakness that cybercriminals can exploit. Both the National Cybersecurity Alliance and ECSM offer tips and resources for taking part in Cybersecurity Awareness Month. They provide sample social media posts, press releases and images, calls to action, and offer tips on ways to get companies and schools involved as well. Blogging, sending emails to colleagues and family, holding contests, and even conducting a mock phishing simulation at work are some of the suggested activities.
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