Cybersecurity: Every user can be a first line of defense online
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October is National Cyber Awareness Month. Cyberspace is an important domain and is vital to our way of life.

Think about it. In almost everything we do today -- whether conducting financial transactions, communicating with our loved ones or even conducting military operations -- we depend on cyberspace. This month is dedicated to not only educating people about the importance of being safe online, but also about how to improve overall security measures when operating in cyberspace. After all, assets -- whether national or personal -- are everyone's responsibility.

At U.S. Cyber Command, we know the threats are real. On an average day, Department of Defense networks are probed approximately 250,000 times an hour. There are foreign intelligence organizations attempting to hack into U.S. computers, and terrorists are active on more than 4,000 websites.

But you don't have to take my word for how real the threats are. Just ask any anyone who has had their e-mail account hijacked or has encountered some kind of identity theft.

One of our basic missions at U.S. Cyber Command is the protection of DoD critical networks. Simply put, we are responsible for the protection of the dot-mil domains. And although the Department of Homeland Security is the lead agency for protection of U.S. government domains, U.S. Cyber Command is prepared to assist in the protection of critical infrastructure. We work closely with interagency and international partners to execute the mission to allow the United States to operate freely in cyberspace. We bring a coordinated and synchronized effort to cyber operations.

A little more than a year ago, President Barack Obama declared the U.S. digital infrastructure to be a national security asset and pledged to make it "secure, trustworthy and resilient." In recent testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command, indicated that threats to U.S. infrastructure are real.

Recent cyber events like those that occurred in Estonia in 2007 and Georgia in 2008 suggest that cyber attacks have become real war-fighting tools. Our own DoD networks incurred a dangerous intrusion in 2008 and DoD took appropriate action to remedy the problem. Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn indicated in a recent Foreign Affairs magazine article that the incident was a turning point in U.S. cyber defense strategy.

So what part can every computer user play to help ensure their safety in cyberspace'

The first step is to make sure the anti-virus software running on your computer is up to date. At work, this is normally performed by an information technology professional. But at home, each computer owner must take responsibility.

Make sure the appropriate firewalls are in place and that you receive automatic program/software updates once your protective software is loaded. There are many free or reduced-priced anti-virus packages available on the Internet and through DoD.

Don't compromise passwords.

Finally, back up critical data in a location other than the main computer, such as on a CD or an external hard drive at home or to a designated place on the network if you work in DoD where connecting external devices to your government computer is normally prohibited.

These are just some of the simple steps to ensure cyber safety.

As October is National Cyber Awareness month, U.S. Cyber Command stands ready to execute the full spectrum of cyber operations, but cyber security starts with you. Remember, everyone has a part to play in ensuring our DoD networks stay secure and our national assets are protected.

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