There’s a lot going on in October. Major League Baseball basically spends the entire month (minus a week or so, depending on how divisional matchups play out) crowning its next World Series champion. For gleeful children and long-suffering parents, October is all about Eve — All Hallow’s Eve, that is. (Fine, fine, the hipsters call it “Halloween.”)
October is also when the current season of Survivor on CBS, which typically premieres at the end of September, starts to get good. Furthermore, Oct. 7 is National Inner Beauty Day, while National Pierogi Day, National Kick Butt Day, and Columbus Day all fall on Oct. 8 (at least in 2018). So there’s that.
For information technology professionals, however, October tends to be all about cybersecurity. Sometimes that’s because of recent breaking news: It’s scarcely been 48 hours, for example, since Facebook disclosed a major security breach. Yet while there may not be an accompanying and thematically appropriate breach every year, October is always National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM).
What does that mean to the average individual? It can mean as much — or as little — as each person chooses. Which is kind of the point of having a National Cyber Security Awareness Month, when you think about it. People, after all, are the least stable, most unpredictable element in any cybersecurity defensive perimeter or safety net.
Even when hackers don’t directly exploit the active indifference to sound cybersecurity of, say, an employee or contractor, they’re usually still breaking in assisted by human negligence at the level of programming or design. Therefore, as individuals in 2018, National Cyber Security Awareness Month should be of direct personal interest to each of us.
Everyone a role to play, even if the only computer that you ever directly interact with is a home PC or personal electronic device. Parents should be actively teaching their children about safe interactions online and proper use of technology, including ever-expanding caches of self-executing programs like the millions of apps found in Google Play or Microsoft Store.
Employers, especially large companies that provide internet access to every cubicle or office, should involve every employee in protecting company information and properly restricting access to networks and databases. Providing proper training and overseeing regular cybersecurity refreshers can seem like a drag, but that’s nothing compared to the financial loss, damaged reputation, and essential infrastructure repair and rejiggering that comes with a major security breach.
There are numerous online resources to help advance the cause of National Cyber Security Awareness Month:
Stop. Think. Connect. is an ongoing web-based campaign curated by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the Anti-Phishing Working Group.
StaySafeOnline is another project of the National Cyber Security Alliance and acts as a repository of cybersecurity tools and information.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security supports National Cyber Security Awareness Month each year and has a 2018 toolkit to help organizations get involved.
The nonprofit Center for Internet Security, in addition to offering security assistance on an ongoing basis, issues recommendations for every week of National Cyber Security Awareness Month.
And really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are many, many resources available to both individuals and organizations that are willing or eager to play a role in promoting cybersecurity best practices and generally making computers and the internet safer for all concerned. A noted politician once declared that it takes a village to raise a child. In 2018, it takes participation from everyone to make information technology safe for all of us.