Guarding against ghosts and ghouls during October’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Posted on October 29, 2010 by Comments Off

I got the dreaded call on Tuesday.

“Ma’am, this is your bank calling to ask about some charges we think are fraudulent. Have you been in in or around Las Vegas recently?”

No, bank lady, I have not. The only traveling I’ve done of late is to visit my team in Washington, D.C., far away from the glimmer and gleam of the Strip. Apparently my debit card has been having quite the run there, however. One of the largest charges came from a $330 shopping spree at Target – how do you spend $330 in a store that prides itself on a department store (i.e., bargain) history?!

In any case, I was lucky in that my bank kindly agreed to reverse the charges and provide me with a new debit card. But I wonder: How did my card number get stolen in the first place? I never use my debit card in “sketchy” locations or places where I cannot see it get run through the machine. I rarely, if ever, use ATMs, and as previously mentioned, I have been nowhere near Nevada for almost a year. I thought I was doing everything right.

While the circumstances of my experience may forever remain a mystery, it leads to the broader notion that perhaps my Web-based, digital life may be to blame. Like many of you reading this, I use online banking almost daily. I make payments, transfer funds, order products. … You get the idea. And while there are many safeguards in place to ensure our valuable information remains protected, there are still many, many ways that we can be compromised.

October has been designated National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) precisely for this reason. Conducted every October since 2004, NCSAM is a national public awareness campaign designed to encourage everyone to protect their computers and our nation’s critical cyber-infrastructure.

The primary drivers of NCSAM are the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC). They work in concert to outline what home users, schools, businesses and governments need to do to protect their computers, children, and data from cyberattacks.

The NCSAM website maintains that:

Ultimately, our cyber infrastructure is only as strong as the weakest link. No individual, business, or government entity is solely responsible for securing the Internet. Everyone has a role to secure their part of cyberspace, including the computers, devices and networks they use. We all need to understand how our individual actions have a collective impact on cybersecurity and protecting the Internet. … However, if each of us does our part—whether it’s implementing stronger security practices in our day-to-day online activities, making sure the right tools are in place, raising awareness in the community, educating young people or training employees—together we will be more resistant and resilient, protecting ourselves, our neighbors and our country.

You may be wondering what the fuss is all about, but it’s true: Cyberattacks are on the rise, and unless we all do our part to combat them, there will be serious consequences. As many of us are heavily involved in the technology sector via our jobs, it is of utmost importance that we are aware of how to best protect ourselves, our families, and our clients from cyberattacks.

Let’s hope that between our renewed vigilance and self-education, more “dreaded calls,” or worse, will be prevented in the future.

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