National Cybersecurity Awareness Month arrives

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The annual National Cybersecurity Awareness Month festivities kick off Monday, and a new public messaging campaign highlights this year's event.

The campaign, called "Stop. Think. Connect." aims to empower citizens to make choices that contribute to the overall security of the internet, according to White House proclamation issued Friday.

Founded in 2003, National Cybersecurity Awareness Month takes place each year in October to educate consumers, schools, businesses and government agencies on staying safe and secure online.

The event is sponsored by the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCSA) — a nonprofit dedicated to fostering a culture of cybersecurity — along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, a cybersecurity prevention and protection collaboration for state and local governments.

This National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign is officially set to kick off next week with events planned across the country. Details about the new public awareness and educational campaign are set to be released on Monday, according to the NCSA.

Additionally, Howard Schmidt, White House cybersecurity coordinator, and Jane Holl Lute, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, are expected to attend a launch event for the campaign on Monday in Seattle.

On the East Coast, a launch event hosted by defense contractor Lockheed Martin is scheduled in Arlington, Va.

“I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the importance of cybersecurity and to observe this month with activities, events and trainings that will enhance our national security and resilience,” President Obama said in the proclamation.

JR Smith, CEO of anti-virus firm AVG, told SCMagazineUS.com on Friday that consumers are generally aware of the importance of cybersecurity, but many have failed to take action.

The focus of this year's Cybersecurity Awareness Month should not just be to educate users about cybersecurity, but to encourage them to take the necessary steps to be safe online, he said.

The NCSA recommends that all Americans employ comprehensive security suites that include anti-virus, firewall, anti-spyware and anti-spam software. In addition, the software should be set to automatically update.

Also, the NSCA recommends only using secure wireless connections that require passwords or other forms of security. Finally, users are encouraged to back up files and data on a regular basis to mitigate losses in the event of a failure.

“In this digital age, we are all connected, and each of us plays an important role in securing cyberspace,” William Pelgrin, MS-ISAC chair and CEO of the Center for Internet Security, said in a statement.

Organizations are encouraged to participate in the event by visiting the National Cyber Security Awareness Month Web portal, which contains resources for businesses.

Enterprises can use the month to highlight cybersecurity through internal education and training, Shannon Kellogg, senior director of public policy at EMC and chairman of the NCSA board of directors, told SCMagazineUS.com on Friday.

“We should be doing this year-round in enterprises and at home, but October allows us to place a greater emphasis and spotlight on it given it is Cybersecurity Awareness Month,” he said.

Enterprises have real business and ethical reasons to engage their employees in cybersecurity, AVG's Smith said, adding that employees often work from home and, as a result, may introduce threats into the enterprise environment.

To get involved in the month's events, enterprises should try to foster a culture of cybersecurity and encourage employees to improve their cybersecurity posture at home, he said. As an incentive for workers to secure their home computers, businesses could pay for the cost of security software, he suggested.

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