GUEST ESSAY: What everyone can — and should — do to mark Cybersecurity Awareness Month

By April Miller

With new technological advancements comes a need for heightened security measures. Plenty of criminals are searching for vulnerabilities in networks, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that cybersecurity issues have become more prevalent.

Related: President Biden issues cybersecurity executive order

For the past 17 years, October has been designated as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) to focus much needed attention on cybersecurity.

Here’s how NCSAM came to be and how to get involved, as well as tips to increase your security efforts.

NCSAM launched in 2004, at a time where technology was nowhere near where it is today. We still relied on flip phones, and broadband internet was becoming more accessible for people worldwide.

The National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCSA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) came together to help Americans feel safer and more secure while online. The start of NSCAM may have resulted from multiple Chinese cyberattacks, later called Titan Rain, on the U.S. government. These hacks called for more awareness around cybersecurityand brought to light how crucial it is to be proactive in data protection and security.

Initial NCSAM efforts included urging people connected to the internet to update their antivirus software regularly. Cybersecurity has become much more advanced since then. Each week of NCSAM has a narrow focus, according to the U.S. Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response:

•Week 1: Make your home a haven for online safety

•Week 2: Millions of rewarding jobs: educating for a career in cybersecurity

•Week 3: It’s everyone’s job to ensure online safety at work

•Week 4: Safeguarding the nation’s critical infrastructure

With NCSAM in mind, how can your business achieve the ultimate goal of keeping data secure and preventing cyber threats from impacting daily operations?

Pursue cyber hygiene

Miller

Implementing cybersecurity best practices and ensuring your data is protected from online criminals should be a top priority for any business, regardless of the industry you serve. Here are some basic tips that will help your business do just that:

•Install Firewalls and Virus Protection. Firewalls act as a barrier to those trying to gain unauthorized access to networks and computer systems. In addition, antivirus software detects and removes malware, spyware and any other malicious software that could potentially impact your business.

Every 39 seconds, poorly secured computers are attacked by hackers. Carefully choosing well-trusted protection software can help you ensure your business computer won’t be one of them.

•Host cybersecurity training for all employees. Your employees must know cybersecurity best practices while working online.There are plenty of online resources, webinars and training modules available to help educate your team so your data remains secure.

•Always use multifactor authentication. MFA, also called two-factor authentication or 2FA, can help safeguard your data. It requires employees to log in to their multiple accounts using a handful of steps rather than just a username and password. MFA or 2FA provide an extra layer of security — would-be thieves would need to steal a username, password and cellphone to successfully log in to an account they’re trying to steal information from.

Aside from following some of the tips listed above, you can participate in NCSAM through sponsorship opportunities, social media initiatives or special events hosted by the National Cybersecurity Alliance.

Whether you’re a part of a small business or a large corporation, cybersecurity is something every individual needs to participate and every  business needs to  prioritize. Taking steps to secure your private company data will helpyour business grow and prevent any instances of cyberattacks. This October, take a look at your current security measures and make necessary changes to protect your company.

About the essayist: April Miller is a staff writer at ReHack Magazine. While she enjoys tackling topics across the technology space, she’s most passionate about educating readers on cybersecurity and Big Data.

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