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October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month
We are connected to the internet for almost every part of our daily lives. Whether it’s the electric grid, our healthcare records, or our social media presence, we are extraordinarily reliant on this global network. But this connection is not without risks.
We’ve seen the damage that cyber incidents can do, from compromising your personal data to wreaking havoc on international markets. Recent ransomware incidents have caused widespread disruption and significant economic loss.
It’s not just international businesses or government networks that are under attack. If your computer, smart phone, or tablet connects to the internet, you are also at risk. If you have a smart appliance, like a home thermostat, baby monitor, or television, it’s also vulnerable to cyber threats.
This is why cybersecurity is one of DHS’s core missions. Each day our men and women work so hard to keep our country safe from the growing frequency, scale, and sophistication of cyber threats.
October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Challenge yourself to do more to protect yourself online. It’s not complicated but it does take discipline – not just in October, but year-round.
- Use strong passwords, and change them often. Strong passwords consist of letters, numbers, and special characters. Whenever possible, use multi-factor authentication – sometimes called two-step verification – as an extra layer of security beyond just a user name and password. Many online services including email, social media, and online banking offer this extra protection for free. To learn more visit https://www.lockdownyourlogin.org/.
- Update your software. It’s important to use the latest version of software, and install patches and updates to prevent older and vulnerable versions of software from being compromised. This includes software for your home computer, your mobile devices, and anything else that is connected to the internet.
- Avoid phishing schemes. Look out for suspicious or unsolicited emails, and don’t open their links or attachments. If an email sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Treat your personal data like money. Be careful how much you share, and with whom you share it. Control and limit who can see your personal information online by checking the privacy and security settings on your accounts and apps.
- Help other people improve their cybersecurity. Visit staysafeonline.org to learn more about how to stay safe online and get involved at home, work, school and in the community. If you’re interested in a career in this growing and exciting field, there are numerous resources available at the Department of Homeland Security’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies.
- Get involved. Companies, researchers, and others can get more involved in cybersecurity by reporting incidents, indicators, malware, and vulnerabilities to DHS and the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (https://www.us-cert.gov/nccic).
These are only a few ways you can help make cyberspace more secure. Throughout the month, the Department of Homeland Security will promote cybersecurity in the workplace, discuss cybersecurity and smart devices, encourage people to consider a career in cybersecurity, and talk about how we protect critical infrastructure from cyber threats. You can get involved by visiting dhs.gov/ncsam.
By practicing strong cybersecurity habits every day, and encouraging others to do the same, you can help us all be safer online, and help keep our country secure.