As September’s National Preparedness Month activities end, we move directly to National Cyber Security Month in October. It’s an appropriate transition. With cyber threats increasingly a central part of the nation’s homeland security portfolio the special months have some things in common, particularly when it comes to the public. In fact, it may be time to consider integrating some cyber security preparedness steps into the government’s basic citizen readiness recommendations.
Though much of the high-tech work on this issue is being done by government and the private sector, National Cyber Security Awareness Month aims to underscore that average computer users also have a role according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS):
“The theme for National Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2009 is ‘Our Shared Responsibility’ to reinforce the message that all computer users, not just industry and government, have a responsibility to practice good ‘cyber hygiene’ and to protect themselves and their families at home, at work and at school.”
At the DHS website, computer users can find: ”a few simple steps to keep themselves safe online. By doing so, you will not only keep your personal assets and information secure but you will also help to improve the overall security of cyberspace…There are many things businesses, schools, and home users can do to practice cybersecurity during National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and beyond.” They include:
* Make sure that you have anti-virus software and firewalls installed, properly configured, and up-to-date. New threats are discovered every day, and keeping your software updated is one of the easier ways to protect yourself from an attack. Set your computer to automatically update for you.
* Update your operating system and critical program software. Software updates offer the latest protection against malicious activities. Turn on automatic updating if that feature is available.
* Back up key files. If you have important files stored on your computer, copy them onto a removable disc and store it in a safe place.
In trying to get the public to prepare for cyber threats, government — as well as industry in this case — faces some of the same obstacles as informing and readying the citizenry for other threats. Here too, there is a need to more fully illustrate the potential dangers and show how the average user can really have an impact on the nation’s cyber security effort.