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The Origin of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

The Origin of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month
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By Susan Hoffman
Contributor, InCyberDefense

Each October, various organizations in industry, academia and business promote National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM). This awareness campaign originally started in October 2004 through the work of the nonprofit National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The idea behind NCSAM was to raise general awareness of cybersecurity and to help individuals and businesses better understand how to protect themselves.

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How National Cybersecurity Awareness Month Has Grown over the Years

NCSAM has grown considerably over time in order to adapt to ever-changing threats in cybersecurity.

According to “StaySafeOnline,” a website created by NCSA, “When NCSAM first began, the awareness efforts centered around advice like updating your antivirus software twice a year…the month’s effort has grown to include the participation of a multitude of industry participants that engage their customers, employees and the general public in awareness, as well as college campuses, nonprofits and other groups.”

In 2011, NCSA and DHS adopted the idea of using weekly themes during NCSAM. NCSA notes, “This idea was based on feedback from stakeholders that the many aspects of cybersecurity should be better articulated, making it easier for other groups to align with specific themes. Themes have included education, cybercrime, law enforcement, mobility, critical infrastructure, and small- and medium-sized businesses.”

NCSAM Themes for 2019

For many years, the overarching theme of NCSAM was “Our Shared Responsibility.” Recently, that theme shifted to “Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.” The different aspects of this theme involve various security practices.

Own IT

  • Staying safe on social media – avoiding the oversharing of personal information on social media sites
  • Updating privacy settings – switching your social media sites to “Private” whenever possible
  • Keeping tabs on your mobile apps – making sure to download safe mobile apps to your mobile devices and being careful about what permissions you give those apps

Secure IT

  • Shaking up your passphrase protocol – using strong, unique passwords for different websites
  • Doubling your login protection – adopting multi-factor authentication
  • Shopping safe online – buying from reputable sites and checking for security icons before you make purchases
  • Playing hard to get with strangers – recognizing phishing scams

Protect It

  • Connecting and protecting – updating your security software, browser and operating system, as well as using public Wi-Fi with caution
  • Protecting customer/consumer data – guarding Personally Identifiable Information (PII) from internal and external threats

Public education is an important aspect of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. By becoming more aware of cyber threats, organizations and individuals can take the steps they need to improve their cybersecurity.

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