ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – In 2004, Congress declared that October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, to make both public and private entities aware of the need for cybersecurity. This year’s theme is “Secure our World.”
The internet has become an integral part of most people’s lives. From the most important functions of national defense and international business down to simple shopping and everyday entertainment, we are immersed in the cyberworld. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad actors lurking in cyberspace, hoping to steal our hard-earned money or disrupt our lives in some manner.
When it comes to the U.S. Army, bad actors are hidden in the cyber-shadows, trying to learn our nation’s defense secrets in a bid to weaken us, and strengthen them, for their own ends.
U.S. Army Sustainment Command, through its G6 (Information Technology) directorate, works tirelessly year-round to maintain the security of the command’s vital internet portals.
Toni Helman is one of ASC’s cybersecurity experts, a team whose primary focus is keeping those bad actors at bay. These are primarily foreign governments that engage in cyber espionage, cyber warfare, and influence campaigns. They can target our government, critical infrastructure, and individuals. Helman said the major players in this realm are Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.
These cybersecurity professionals are securing and encrypting our network, and keeping our software patched and compliant.
“All team members are responsible for knowing how to identify and respond to phishing emails, unauthorized access attempts, data leakage from a higher to lower classification level, and maintaining and communicating securely using the tools the government has provided,” Helmand explained.
According to Helman, besides foreign governments, cyber threats can be broadly defined as:
• Cyber Criminals: These are either individuals or criminal organizations that seek out financial gain through activities like ransomware attacks, data theft, and identity fraud.
• Hacktivists: They have political or social motives and carry out cyberattacks to further those agendas.
• Insider Threats: These are employees, contractors, and trusted individuals inside our organization who intentionally or unintentionally cause harm through data breaches.
• Terrorist Organizations: These groups use cyber-attacks for recruitment, propaganda or to carry out attacks on critical infrastructure like water or power generation.
Helman and her team continually work to keep the command’s information secure, but what about the average person?
She offers some tips for individuals to keep those bad actors from doing harm. Whenever using the internet, including public portals like Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and Instagram, she said to “check your privacy settings and review what is being revealed about you and who can see your personal information. Be cautious about what you post online. It’s often said the ‘internet is forever,’ so avoid oversharing information.”
Helman also said it is important to fact-check and verify information. Misinformation and “fake news” can spread quickly and can often be tied to some of the bad actors already mentioned.
If you want to be safe online, Helman said, you need to educate yourself and be aware of common scams and online threats. Cybersecurity is truly a year-round effort, and it’s crucial to know how to keep your personal information secure.
For more information on how to stay safe on the internet, go to https://www.cisa.gov/sites/default/files/2023-08/Secure-Our-World-4-Easy-Ways-Stay-Safe-Online-Tip-Sheet.pdf.