KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- With 4.2 billion users around the world surfing the internet, ensuring your information is safe in cyberspace can be daunting. During October's National Cyber Security Awareness Month, users can educate themselves on how to securely navigate the cyber world, while keeping their personal information secure.
"NCSAM is an effort originally organized by the National Cyber Security Division of the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the National Cyber Security Alliance to encourage vigilance and protection by all computer users," said Tracy McManus, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Supervisory Information Technology specialist. "The founding premise was that securing cyberspace requires the combined efforts of every single user on the internet."
This month, the DHS and NCSA reach out to all netizens with information, tips and best practices designed to raise awareness about cybersecurity issues and help users to learn how to protect themselves and stay safe while online, said McManus, a 27-year cyber expert. The campaign is extremely important, "because it provides cyberspace users with real tools and knowledge they can employ to avoid and thwart would be bad actors targeting them online."
Sharing too much information on social media, making online purchases on unsecured web sites and sending unencrypted Personally Identifiable Information electronically are just a few ways cyber thieves and adversaries can gather sensitive information for unlawful purposes.
"Something seemingly innocuous such as the identity theft of just one of our service members can negatively affect readiness for that individual, his or her family, and subsequently, the unit," he explained. "On the other hand, cyberspace is a battle space for all modern armed forces, and cyberattacks pose a serious threat to the Army's mission. A successful denial-of-service attack could have a devastating effect on the physical battlefield if our mission relied on successfully communicating through cyberspace."
Cyberattacks happen to organizations and businesses every day. In June 2015, targeted against the United States Office of Personnel Management. That particular hit resulted in the theft of more than 21.5 million records from OPM databases.
Organizations invest a great deal of time and money on programs and cyber experts to keep their information secure, but everyday netizens can do things to protect themselves on a smaller scale, McManus said.
1. Install an effective anti-virus software to prevent viruses, malware and key-loggers from infecting your computer.
2. Keep your software up-to-date. No software package is perfect and many of the bugs are leveraged by bad actors to execute cybercrime with or through your computer.
3. Don't share your personal details. Most cybercriminals may just want your money or credit cards, but there are those that would do you physical harm if they could identify who you are and where you live.
Lastly, it's all about education.
"Take advantage of the materials and information available on the DHS website at
https://www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect-toolkit. Also, check out the Stop. Think.
Connect. website at https://stopthinkconnect.org and to learn about threats and protective measures you can employ to keep yourself safe online," McManus concluded.