A Rising Tide Lifts all Boats: Celebrating National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

  • Brad Wolfenden, Director of Cyber Academic Partnerships
  • October 30, 2018

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCAM) in October reminds us of the importance of being safer online, in both our professional and personal lives. Easier said than done, eh? Who’s to say the majority of us even know what makes us “safer” online, or for that matter what makes us vulnerable or should raise a red flag?

It all starts with awareness. I’d like to suggest that “IT Literacy” is no longer enough. Now, in 2018 and beyond, “Cyber Literacy” needs to be a year-round, all-encompassing movement. And regardless of whether or not “Cyber-” or “IT-”anything is or will be in your title, cybersecurity must matter to you.

During a recent workshop presentation I delivered to attendees at the Florida CyberCon 2018 in Tampa, I likened our cybersecurity practices to the idea of personal hygiene. Because let’s face it, one’s personal hygiene is something that,
a.) you are personally aware of and educated on how to maintain
b.) is attended to routinely
c.) is well understood in terms its impact on your overall health
d.) has a relative impact on everyone around you regardless of direct contact

Cybersecurity can be thought of much in the same way. We must all begin to realize that cybersecurity demands the same kind of personal awareness and attention – it not only impacts us as individuals but also our family, colleagues, department, agency, company.

I believe that part of the disconnect around cybersecurity best practices comes from the assumptions we make as consumers in general – that what we’re buying is designed and sold with our best interests, and security, in mind. For example, you buy a new car and it comes equipped with seatbelts, turn signals, airbags, automatic brakes and locks, etc. The food you buy and eat is certified by the Food & Drug Administration to indicate it has been safely grown/ raised and suitable for human consumption. When making technology purchases, we cannot take these same conveniences for granted.

Now, that’s not to say that all technology is inherently unsafe, but my point is, we can’t settle with pre-installed safety protocols because, as we know, technology is ever evolving and failure to frequently update it and use it safely results in vulnerabilities that hackers will exploit for financial, reputational, or economic gain. Just like with personal hygiene, healthy practices and regular routines are necessary for optimal cyber literacy and performance.

The goal behind NCAM is to encourage us take some time to understand the problems resulting from poor cybersecurity practices. Those behaviors will not start to diminish until school counselors, parents, teachers, administrative assistants, nurses, athletes, and everyone become more aware of their cyber posture. There’s a reason why the laptop or PC you’re reading this on asks you to update its internet browser and operating system. And those push notifications you get on your phone to update your apps aren’t coming through to annoy you and eat up your battery and data. These simple practices and others — like resetting passwords and activating double-verification – will improve your cyber hygiene and protect you against ongoing threats to infiltrate the devices and exploit the data of our everyday lives.

So, did you shower today?
Did you check your computer updates today?

Ready to learn more? Checkout our new short, fun education videos on the “Cybersecurity Whiteboards” video playlist, here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUdKZUJquY1hn2EwlBJ90MyunBYcAaXRk.

As National Cybersecurity Awareness Month comes to a close, it’s important that the efforts put forth do not end. The reality is this: as the cost of compute power continues to be driven down by advancements in manufacturing and technology, the resources used by malicious hackers become more accessible. This, combined with the fact that a successful cyber breach gets more and more newsworthy and profitable by the day, means the problem isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. When we take steps together to be stronger individually, we become stronger collectively. We can prove the saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Together, we can lift the intellectual property, national security and private data “boats” if we all commit to be more cyber conscientious and cautious.