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National Cyber Security Awareness Month

By Steve Smith

The information presented here is true and accurate as of the date of publication. DeVry’s programmatic offerings and their accreditations are subject to change. Please refer to the current academic catalog for details.
September 22, 2023
5 min read

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, reminding us to brush up on techniques we can all use to defend against cybercriminals and the different attacks they utilize.

 

In this article, we’ll describe the purpose of national Cyber Security Awareness Month, explore why it’s so important, and share a few cyber security statistics. We’ll also offer a few tips for protecting yourself at home and at work, and some recommendations for promoting cyber security in the workplace. 

The Purpose of Cyber Security Awareness Month

Cyberattacks like ransomware, spoofing and spear fishing are on the rise and demand that we, as consumers, responsible computer-using employees and business owners and managers, take steps to protect ourselves against identity theft, fraud, data breaches and other consequences of cyberattacks.

Promoting the different steps individuals and organizations can take to educate themselves and protect themselves against various forms of digital crime, Cyber Security Awareness Month might sound like something new, but it’s actually been around longer than you might think. It was launched in 2004 as a co-venture of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA) and is now co-led by the NCA and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA). Its purpose is to promote a more secure connected world, with an emphasis on education and awareness of cyber security for individuals, businesses and other organizations. 

Cyber Security Stats

Just a glimpse at some of these cyber security stats from the CISA should make it clear why a national Cyber Security Awareness Month is so important, and may make you want to review your own cyber security measures:

  • 1 in 3 homes with computers are infected with malware 

  • 44% of millennials were victim to an online crime in the past year

  • 600,000 Facebook accounts are hacked every day

A few more statistics reveal the impact of cybercrime on businesses:

Cyber Safety Tips

What can you do to protect yourself from cybercrime during National Cyber Security Awareness Month and throughout the year? The CISA offers these basic tips:

Use multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a smart way to increase the security of the accounts you use for shopping and paying bills online. This layered approach to securing data and applications requires a user to present a combination of 2 or more credentials to verify their identity when logging in. Even if one credential – your password for example – has been compromised, it’s unlikely that an unauthorized user would be able to meet the second authentication requirement.

A good example of an MFA protocol would be the use of a password and an authentication code which is sent to the account holder’s mobile phone via a text message. When prompted, the account holder enters the code to complete the login process. Without it, the login can’t be completed and the account can’t be accessed. 

Don’t skip software updates

Offering 5 good reasons why regular software updates are important, the antivirus software company Norton reminds us that software updates are an essential component of cyber security. When you get a reminder on your device that an update is available, it’s good practice to download the update right away. Why are those updates so important? Aside from adding new features to applications and removing outdated ones, those updates may contain important security patches that fix vulnerabilities in software programs that could be exploited by malicious hackers or malware. It’s also good practice to make sure your device is running the most up-to-date version of its operating system that comes with its own set of updates, security patches and bug fixes.

Beware of phishing emails

90% of data breaches occur as the result of phishing. 65% of cybercriminals have used what’s known as spear phishing attacks, meant to target one specific individual. Phishing emails are meant to look legit, as if they really have been sent by your bank or other reputable company. They often contain links that take you to a website, which may also have a legitimate look and feel, that asks you to enter personal information. It can be hard to spot a fake message, depending on how sophisticated the dupe website is, but they don’t have to be perfect. Scammers send them in massive numbers hoping that just a few people will be tricked. The best policy is not to open any email that looks suspicious, and if you do open the message, never click through to a link or open an attachment if you’re not absolutely sure of who sent it.  

Use strong passwords

You’ve probably heard about the importance of using strong passwords.

Individuals and businesses lose huge amounts of money each year to cybercriminals who steal banking credentials and other personal information. These damages, including loss of privacy, blackmail, ransomware, identity theft and more are often the consequence of weak password security.

According to Norton, people reuse the same password for 10 different accounts, on average. While it might be easier to remember a single password on your end, it delivers an invitation to cybercriminals to gain access to more than one of your accounts. Using the same password for multiple accounts is a common mistake, along with including personal information such as an address or phone number as part of your password. 

Norton offers good advice about the importance of password security, including how to create a strong password and 10 password security tips that can help you avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime.

Promoting Cyber Security Awareness at Work

Human error is often the cause of data breaches. Employees may unintentionally grant access to an organization’s sensitive data with a single action if they’re not careful or well educated in cyber security measures. This explains why cybercriminals prey upon basic human nature, targeting individuals with threats like spear phishing, man-in-the-middle attacks and business email compromise. That’s also why the safeguarding of an organization’s critical infrastructure is everyone’s job. 

Some cyber security best practices for the workplace include: 

  • Starting from the top: Get the senior leadership of your organization on board first by explaining the consequences of weak cyber defenses and the potential monetary damages. If they make it clear that cyber security is an organization-wide priority, others will follow. 

  • Training employees early: Cyber security training should begin at with new employees’ onboarding. If new hires know they can’t begin working at your organization until they’ve been trained in cyber security best practices, they will understand how much of a priority it is and the importance will spread to the entire company. 

  • Make training an ongoing event: Many companies conduct cyber security training annually. But to keep cyber security top of mind, more frequent training and a regular cyber security assessment may be a good idea. 

  • Making cyber security less scary: It may be helpful to communicate with employees about cyber security in a positive and open manner, using regular communication vehicles like newsletters and bulletins that cover new and emerging threats to keep an eye out for. By maintaining positivity and communicating consistently, employees may feel less intimidated and better prepared if an attack comes their way. 

Prepare to Pursue Your Cyber Security Career with DeVry

If you’re interested in learning about protecting the data systems and networks of corporations, government agencies, financial institutions and other organizations, DeVry can help you get started.  We have a range of cyber security programs that can help you as you start working toward your goals, including our 100% online Undergraduate Certificate in Cyber Security can help you learn how to safeguard networks of various sizes, install and configure operating systems and prepare to pursue industry certifications.

Earn your undergraduate certificate program in as little is 1 year and 2 months on an accelerated schedule, or 1 year and 6 months on a normal one.1 

DeVry offers 6 academic sessions per year to allow you to start when you’re ready.

1 Accelerated schedule is per 12 month period, does not include breaks and assumes year-round, full-time enrollment. Normal schedule is per 12 month period, does not include breaks and assumes 2 semesters of full-time enrollment. 

 

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