Like World Backup Day, which is scheduled for March 31 to forestall any April Fool’s Day tricks, National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2016 (NCSAM 2016) is scheduled for October for the people who might like to pull data pranks in the days and weeks before Halloween.
To be fair, it isn’t clear that hacking incidents are particularly prevalent in October. Pragmatically speaking, though, October is as good a time as any to call attention to security issues. It’s in the “sweet spot”—after summer, when everyone’s on vacation anyway, and before everyone loses their minds about the winter holidays—when we can actually get work done. Moreover, it’s a great idea to get all the security holes plugged before Black Friday and the online shopping season. So October it is.
While a major component of NCSAM 2016, now in its 13th year, is consumer cybersecurity—particularly for teens and young adults going back to high school and college—there’s never a bad time to make employees more aware of cybersecurity. Particularly when “123456” is still the leading password in many hacking incidents.
Another advantage of holding NCSAM in October rather than, say, February is that you get five weeks to focus on cybersecurity issues. And the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the event, takes advantage of that by scheduling a different focus area for each of the five weeks, starting on Mondays (even if the final week does end up being only a single day):
- Week 1: October 3-7, 2016 – Every Day Steps Towards Online Safety with Stop. Think. Connect. This covers basic tips such as improving authentication and keeping up on security updates.
- Week 2: October 10-14, 2016 – Cyber from the Break Room to the Board Room. This covers how every employee can promote a culture of cybersecurity.
- Week 3: October 17-21, 2016 – Recognizing and Combating Cybercrime. This covers how people can detect and prevent cybercrime, such as phishing attacks.
- Week 4: October 24-28, 2016 – Our Continuously Connected Lives: What’s Your ‘App’-titude? This covers security in multiple devices, ranging from smartphones to the Internet of Things.
- Week 5: October 31, 2016 –Building Resilience in Critical Infrastructure. This covers ways to make the physical infrastructure more robust.
The White House is, in fact, encouraging individuals and organizations to move beyond passwords into biometrics, such as fingerprints, and two-factor authentication, like single-use codes with its Lock Down Your Login program. “Strong authentication, such as the use of a fingerprint or the confirmation of a one-time code, for your online accounts could have prevented as many as 62 percent of successful data breaches last year,” the administration writes. Featuring a number of major sponsors and partners including Facebook, Google, and Twitter, the Lock Down Your Login website provides information on how to set up multifactor authentication on a variety of sites and services.
In addition, there are a number of events and programs, both regionally and by industry, that are scheduled to leverage interest in cybersecurity for the month. NCSAM 2016 also encourages people to tweet cybersecurity tips using the #CyberAware hashtag.
One recent aspect for NCSAM 2016 is the capability for organizations and individuals to be recognized as NCSAM Champions. The best part about that designation is that it’s free. All you have to do is fill out a form and pledge to take action in your community to promote cybersecurity. But it sounds impressive, doesn’t it? And chances are, it allows you and your company to take credit for something you’re already doing.
But don’t get too relaxed at the end of the month. After all, as well as signaling the beginning of the holiday season, November is Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month.
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