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A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

National Cyber Challenge Winner Is Example Of Government Reaching Out To Public On Homeland Security & How Civilians Can Be Asset

September 6th, 2010 · No Comments

In a good example of government involving average citizens in the nation’s homeland security effort, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has selected a 28-year-old Roanoke, Virginia woman’s public information campaign to help educate the public on cybersecurity.

Melissa Short’s “Cybersecurity Starts Here” campaign was one of the winners of the National Cyber Awareness Challenge “which called on members of the public and private sector companies to develop creative and innovative ways to enhance awareness of the importance of cybersecurity and safeguard America’s computer systems and networks from attacks.”

Melissa Short, DHS Cyber Challenge Winner

The Challenge, which Secretary Napolitano announced in March, received more than 80 proposals, from which seven were selected which will help inform the National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign. It is designed to engage the American public, the private sector and state and local governments in efforts to guard against cyber threats and communicate strategies for the public to help keep themselves, their families and communities safer online. The Campaign will kick off in October 2010, in conjunction with National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

It is also another deliverable on Secretary Napolitano’s pledge to begin “engaging and empowering our citizens to be part of collective effort” towards “creating a culture of awareness And preparation”. Cybersecurity has become more central to the nation’s homeland security and in fact was mentioned for first time in President Obama’s National Preparedness Month proclamation this year.

Short told me in an interview that in her campaign entry she wanted to make cybersecurity more accessible and doable for the average citizen: ”How do we make cyber security relevant to their lives? But give them steps they can actually do.”

“There’s no silver bullet. It won’t happen overnight,” she says, adding, ”I hope we can get a dialogue when we’re talking about security. Get a discussion going among the public.” Short works at the U.S. Veterans Administration in Roanoke, Virginia in information technology, but  says she is “non-technical” so she feels she can understand both the expert and non-expert worlds.

DHS spokesperson Meredith Isola explained why DHS reached out to the public:

“Everyone has a stake in cybersecurity –- and we believe that all Americans can be part of the solution to keeping our cyberspace safe. And so we knew that by tapping into some of the wisdom and creativity of the public and cyber experts, we could come up with some great ideas for getting the word out more broadly.”

“Every day Americans are incorporating new and innovative technologies into their lives. We’ve come to rely on computers, smartphones and many other online resources at home, at work and at school. That heightens the need for every single one of us – young or old, computer savvy or not – to learn about the potential threats and how to stay safe online.”

According to Short’s campaign proposal:

“Cybersecurity Starts Here” is my vision for a campaign to increase the cybersecurity awareness of the American public. The objective of this campaign is to build a general security consciousness among the American public through communication via a portal web site, advertising and public relations, Web 2.0 presence, and face-to-face interactions. The term “cybersecurity” conjures up images of complex networks and rooms aglow with monitors and buzzing with computing power. Cybersecurity sounds like a term for government and big business. However, the reality is that cybersecurity impacts all of our lives and we all have the ability and the need to take steps to protect our computers, ourselves, and even our Nation.

The general, non-technical public, is the primary target of this communication. The campaign also recognizes two key sub-groups of the American public: small businesses and students. In addition, this campaign makes considerations for educating the general news media on cybersecurity issues in order for these outlets to improve their coverage of the topic. This campaign will reach the American public with practical and ready-to-implement suggestions for integrating cybersecurity into the everyday computing experience.

A key to the long range success of the Cybersecurity Starts Here message is encouraging a nationwide dialogue on cybersecurity and engaging the public in face-to-face conversations on cybersecurity will help achieve this goal. The centerpiece is creating a “Cybersecurity Ambassadors Program” comprised  of people who work in IT (ex. IT specialists, ISOs, CIOs, system administrations, IT security specialists, help desk specialists), people who have an interest in IT security (ex. police personnel), or people who have a special relationship with a target public (ex. educators, school administrators, teen mentors, college residence life staff, small business support organizations) who want to build the cybersecurity awareness in their workplace, community, church, civic group, etc.

The campaign will be integrated into DHS’s cybersecurity public awareness efforts. Says Short: “It will be very cool to see my ideas implemented.” The other Challenge winners were:

Best Iconic and Overall Structure – Deloitte “Think Before You Click”

The Best Iconic and Overall Structure submission was Deloitte for their Cybersecurity call-to-action and “Think Before You Click” campaign. In addition to proposing creative messaging and tag lines, innovative marketing strategies and calls to action, Deloitte proposed a symbolic icon to help drive awareness and recognition of the campaign for adults and young adults, as well as a character to drive cyber awareness with kids.

Best Local/community Plan – eCity San Diego and MyMaine Privacy

For the Best Local/Community Plan, Securing Our eCity San Diego and MyMainePrivacy were both selected as winners. Both proposals offered innovated strategies for grassroots collaborative approaches with state and local government, public and private sector, and the academic community through their online classroom style trainings.

Most Creative – Beekeeper Group and LegalNetWORKs “Trot Against Bots”

For Most Creative, the submission from Beekeeper Group and LegalNetWORKS for their “Trot Against Bots” awareness 5K was selected. The strategy acknowledges that planned road races by their very nature close down city streets for a period of a few hours, and proposes working with local officials to organize a 5K in a city that would illustrate how a single runner (symbolizing a botnet) may not shut down traffic, but a group can (vehicle traffic would symbolize Internet traffic).

Best Educational plan – Penn State “CyberLink Games”

Penn State’s proposal was selected as the Best Educational Plan, for their CyberLink Games, which are aimed at improving Internet security. There are two games—CyberLink Duo helps players understand how society views cybersecurity risk and CyberLink Solo helps to educate players on the latest information from experts on cybersecurity threats.

Best Publicity and Marketing – CISCO “Cybersecurity is Everyone’s Responsibility”

Cisco Systems’ proposal was selected as the Best Publicity and Marketing plan for their “Cybersecurity is Everyone’s Responsibility” campaign. An overarching theme of the National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign is creating a balance between Internet safety as a personal responsibility and a shared responsibility. The awareness campaign Cisco proposed aligns with this goal by creating an educational cybersecurity portal and a cybersecurity “IQ challenge,” and utilizing print, radio, TV and online advertisements to drive awareness of these programs.

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Tags: Cyber Security · Department of Homeland Security

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