National Cybersecurity Awareness Month has a unique significance for us here at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T). The commemorative month was created 17 years ago by DHS and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) as a broad effort to assist people with staying safe and secure online. Back in 2004, a primary focus was on installing and updating antivirus software, and part of the campaign was to encourage folks to update it twice a year when they would change the batteries in smoke alarms.
If only it was that simple today.
This year’s theme is Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart. The idea is for each of us to take ownership of the role we play in making cyberspace safer and more secure. If we all do our part and take the steps that we can, like using best cybersecurity practices, encouraging our communities and colleagues to adopt good security habits, and helping to educate others—especially the vulnerable like children or the elderly—our interconnected cyber world becomes that much safer.
Here are this month’s weekly sub-themes, along with updates on S&T’s cyber-related research and development efforts and some really great resources from our colleagues at the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA):
If You Connect It, Protect It
Internet-connected devices are an unavoidable part of our lives. Your computer, your phone, your smart TV, all of your personal pads and tablets, your doorbell, security systems, baby monitor, and on and on … all of them are connected to you, and the internet, and from there to the world. And all of them are potentially vulnerable. CISA encourages you to use good security hygiene and practices with all of your internet-enabled devices (PDF, 1 pg., 329 KB), and we couldn’t agree more. That’s why we’re funding research at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and at Constellation Software Engineering to support the security and safety of these types of devices.
Securing Devices at Home and at Work
Malicious actors are continuously attempting to gain access to vulnerable workplace systems, and in our governmental capacity we are an exponentially more tempting target. Add to that our current remote work status, and with it the blending of home and work internet systems, and the threat is enormous. According to CISA, if we all stop and take a moment to assess our cybersecurity posture (PDF, 1pg., 344 KB), it will make a huge difference. And on top of that, S&T continues to fund efforts to bolster the security of mobile devices and mobile apps.
Securing Internet-Connected Devices in Healthcare
Healthcare is at the forefront of innovation and technology, and that means that this sector is exploring new and revolutionary ways to interconnect and synergize patient care—and that means lots of connections to the internet. The same breakthrough technology that allows someone to track and maintain their blood sugar with a smart phone app provides a pathway for someone with malicious intent. A denial-of-service attack on an emergency room or a 911 call center could be devastating. It’s up to us in this information age to insist that good cyber security practices are followed by our institutions and medical device manufacturers. We just announced two new funding awards to secure Next-Generation 911 systems—in this day and age when frontline workers have added safety risks, the last thing they need to worry about is their technology failing them.
The Future of Connected Devices
The future will bring with it more life-changing breakthroughs and more potential vulnerabilities. We all need to make cybersecurity a part of our lives at home, work, and play. With common sense and a flexible forward-looking outlook, a secure cyber world could become as commonplace and second-nature as a locked front door.
As the trusted science and technology leaders for DHS and the Homeland Security Enterprise, we at S&T are committed to building a safer and more secure world both offline and online. We have several ongoing research and development programs focusing on everything from data privacy to strengthening smart cities to … this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Learn more about all of our ongoing cybersecurity efforts here: https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/cybersecurity. You can also visit our newsroom to learn about additional recent cyber-related funding awards made, including for development of a new peer-to-peer information sharing tool. And of course, follow along with us throughout October as we share even more news of our work related to blockchain, mobile app security, and 5G.
We’re ready to #BeCyberSmart.