This year, the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) entered its 18th year. The initiative was started by the US Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance to ensure that organizations and users take necessary steps to enhance cybersecurity. It also ensures that people have all the resources they need to be safer and more secure online.

Cybersecurity was already an issue and with more and more people using the internet, the hackers started getting into areas where they don’t belong, thus multiplying security risks. This is why, since its emergence in 2004, the cybersecurity month has included within its ambit several sectors, including small and medium-sized businesses, corporations, education, etc. NCSAM was formed to ensure that every individual stays safe and secure online.

Ever since the pandemic changed our lives, billions of users have taken to the internet to get their work done. People have become more dependent on the Internet as events, employment, and momentous occasions moved to virtual platforms. It’s a risky affair for people who do not know how to protect their networks. Each day, thousands of networks get compromised and people’s security is stolen because they do not know how to secure their web-equipped devices correctly. Desktop computers, laptops, tablets and phones, all are susceptible because they contain information, which can be acquired by the wrong people. This called upon the need to enhance security for the online digital world.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 2020 suffered a loss of more than USD 4 billion to cybercrime activities, which is 20% more than 2019.

After tracking consumers’ cybersecurity activities and behaviors since 2015, an international survey concluded that cyberthreats have reached new heights, pushing users to take essential steps to protect themselves. Users who feel the Internet is unsafe and have changed online habits have risen from 58% in 2015 to 65% in 2021. While 59% said that data privacy issues have increased, resulting in a change of habits, it is up from 52% in 2015.

People using the web need to inculcate ways to make their online experience safe and enjoyable. The NCSA is doing its bit by issuing pamphlets, seminars and awareness months to help people understand the rising cyber threats.

Theme: ‘Do your part. #BeCyberSmart

This year, the slogan for National Cybersecurity month is “Do your part. #BeCyberSmart.” It conveys the message that every individual and organization should be equally responsible for Internet safety while maintaining personal accountability. We need to take active steps to keep upgrading cybersecurity policies in the digitally growing environment.

Throughout the month, the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and its partners have designed programs to raise awareness of specific aspects of cybersecurity. Each week of the month marks a different theme.

  • October 4 (Week 1): Be Cyber Smart

Human lives have become dependent on technology. All the important data related to personal and businesses is stored on Internet-connected platforms, turning into data treasures for attackers.

October’s first week of Cybersecurity Month focused on best security practices and overall cyber hygiene to keep the data safe. Utilizing multi-factor authentication, creating strong passwords, maintaining a backup of the data, and timely updating software are a few initial steps to start with ‘Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.’

  • October 11 (Week 2): Fight the Phish!

Since the pandemic, phishing attacks and scams have increased multifold. According to a report, phishing attacks have contributed to more than 80% of reported security incidents. Thus, the second week of Cybersecurity Month underscores the importance of remaining alert and more aware of emails, text messages, or chat boxes from unwanted sources. It pushes users to verify before clicking on suspicious emails, links, or attachments and reporting any malicious activity.

  • October 18 (Week 3): Career Awareness Week: Explore. Experience. Share

The third week of the Cybersecurity Awareness Month highlighted the Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week led by National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE). As the cybersecurity field is dynamically growing, this week-long campaign inspires everyone to choose the best careers for themselves and get a fair chance.

  • October 25 (Week 4): Cybersecurity First

The fourth week talks about keeping security a priority. For businesses, it means implementing security into products and processes. The week ensures it is important to make cybersecurity training part of employee onboarding and educate the staff with the tools required to keep the organization safe.

At an individual level, keeping cybersecurity at the forefront to connect daily is essential. It is necessary to perform complete research about a particular product while purchasing it.

While setting up a new device or app, security and privacy settings should be considered, along with updating default passwords. In the end, cybersecurity should never be an afterthought.

Tips on how to handle cybersecurity threats

Cybersecurity Awareness Month aims to educate people about the concrete steps everyone can take to protect their devices, data, and identity. To facilitate this provision, OCABR has listed simple proactive tips that can help organizations enhance cybersecurity.

  • It is important to protect it while you connect it

Computers, tablets, smartphones, and washing machines are connected via a network. This opens the door for potential security breaches. Using updated versions of the browser, security, operating system, and antivirus can help protect devices against cyber threats.

  • Setting up a complicated password

Users should avoid using the same password for more than one account. The password should be a combination of lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters so that it is difficult for hackers to interpret the same.

  • Be alert while posting on social media

Cybercriminals are on the lookout to grab user details answered as security questions such as name the dog, first school teacher, or favorite place. Users must be careful while disabling the location and limiting the profile’s reach by applying strong security settings.

  • Applying Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Applying MFA ensures that only the owner is authorized to access the protected account. MFA comes with an option that can be enabled using a trusted mobile device, such as a smartphone, an authenticator app, or a security token.

  • Verify apps –

Most of the connected appliances, toys, and devices usually work on mobile applications. Mobile devices are full of apps, many of which run in the background and keep collecting information. One must keep track of the app permissions and use the ‘rule of least privilege’ option to delete the least critical data.

  • Be cautious of a public network –

While connecting to any public wireless hotspot like hotels, restaurants, or airports, it is essential to check the provider’s exact name and login procedure so that the user does not get into any danger.

Wrapping up

Cybersecurity Awareness Month is crucial, especially for the US Government, as the country has undergone a series of cyberattacks and ransomware attacks, thus hampering its cybersecurity infrastructure. To keep up the national security and resilience, US President Joe Biden has alerted people, businesses, and institutions to focus more on the importance of cybersecurity and protection against cyberthreats.

“Our Nation is under a constant and ever-increasing threat from malicious cyber actors. Ransomware attacks have disrupted hospitals, schools, police departments, fuel pipelines, food suppliers, and small businesses, delaying essential services and putting the lives and livelihoods of Americans at risk. During Cybersecurity Awareness Month, I ask everyone to Do Your Part.  Be Cyber Smart.  All Americans can help increase awareness on cybersecurity best practices to reduce cyber risks,” Biden said.

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