What Is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month?

by John Mark Ivey

Growing up in rural North Carolina, I was obsessed with gadgets and technology. What started out as breaking old pocket watches apart to see how they worked, turned into a life-long obsession with all things modern.

When I was preparing to start my first job after graduating college, my sister gave me an electronic address book. I remember tearing open the packaging and instantly entering every address and phone number I knew. The next week I proudly took my data-stuffed electronic address book into work, only to have it stolen a few days later.

I’ll never forget how violated I felt as I realized the repercussions of this heinous crime. All the addresses, phone numbers and birthdays of my closest friends – and most of my family members – were now in the hands of a complete stranger.

I hoped this thief just wanted a free electronic address book and not a pile of personal information. This was decades ago before the era of stalking and data theft as we know it today, but even then I wondered what all types of nefarious activities could originate from this seemingly small theft.

Because of my carelessness, the personal information of people I care about had been exposed. Luckily nothing ever came of the data theft – or as far as I know. Long before the huge corporate data breaches that now occur almost weekly, that day taught me an important lesson about cybersecurity and data theft. While not an online cybercrime, my loss of personal data – especially data about those closest to me – taught me that protecting your personal information and being proactive about cybersecurity is not just the responsibility of your IT department. Cybersecurity is the responsibility of each and every one of us.

So what is National Cyber Security Awareness Month?

National Cyber Security Awareness Month, also known as NCSAM, is promoted by IT security professionals and organizations across the country and around the world every October. A joint effort between businesses and government, the purpose of NCSAM is to ensure that everyone has the resources needed to stay safer and more secure online.

Launched back in 2004 by the National Cyber Security Division within the US Department of Homeland Security along with the nonprofit National Cyber Security Alliance, NCSAM has since raised awareness about the importance of cybersecurity among thousands of Americans, ensuring they have the resources they need to be safer and more secure online.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act of 2018 created CISA, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which now promotes the monthly campaign along with the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA).

Living in a world that is more connected than ever, the Internet is essential to almost every part of our lives. Data breaches are increasing in occurrence, magnitude and reach, threatening data everywhere from your Gmail and Netflix accounts to your banking and medical records. Cybercrime is no joke.

One of the largest and potentially most dangerous data breaches was the 18 million military and federal employees whose personal data records, some including detailed background security clearance information, that were stolen when the U.S. Office of Personnel Management was hacked in the spring of 2015. That breach should have gotten every American’s attention. If our top government officials aren’t impervious from data breaches, then no one is.

You can see why the NCSAM campaign in October is important to businesses and government agencies alike. Designed to educate public and private sector organizations through events and initiatives, NCSAM’s goal is to raise cybersecurity awareness and increase the resiliency of the nation in the event of a cyber incident.

What Can You Do To Promote NCSAM?

To raise awareness of core NCSAM issues, each week during October has a designated cybersecurity theme. Share and act on these cybersecurity messages throughout the month:

Week 1: October 5-11 – If You Connect It, Protect It

Week 2: of October 12-18 – Securing Devices at Home and Work

Week 3: October 19-25 – Securing Internet-Connected Devices in Healthcare

Week 4: October 26-31 – The Future of Connected Devices

You and your organization can become an NCSAM champion and help promote a safer, more secure and more trusted internet. As a designated NCSAM champion organization, Skyline ATS along with our learning partner Cisco Systems, will promote cybersecurity during the month of October with blog articles, and social media posts. During October, follow us on Twitter @SkylineATS for daily NCSAM updates. Also use and follow NCSAM’s hashtag #BeCyberSmart during and after October to promote your involvement in raising cybersecurity awareness.

Additional Security Training Resources:
Cisco Security Certification Training
CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) Prep Course
CompTIA Security+ Certification Prep Course

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