October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month and is sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), National Cyber Security Alliance, and Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center. It was launched as part of the DHS’s awareness campaign, which President Obama tasked the DHS with creating.
Cyber security is the business of protecting computers and complex networks, and the information stored on them, from unauthorized nefarious access. Protection is especially critical for government agencies, the military, medical facilities, and any institution that stores sensitive, personal, or classified information about others, about its finances and workings, or about national security.
In a 2013 Senate hearing, US intelligence officials warned that the most serious threat to national security is not terrorism but cyber attacks. As our lives have become more digitized with increasingly sophisticated electronic devices on which we routinely store and access highly sensitive information, that threat has increased exponentially.
With the sophistication and ease-of-access of modern electronic devices come equally sophisticated malicious intruders who can operate in deep shadow from anywhere in the world using state-of-the-art intrusion techniques. They have the ability to disrupt services upon which millions of people depend – upon which the economy and national security depend. They have the ability to access information and systems and use them to destroy lives, businesses, whole economies, and entire governments.
If we take a look at the some of the recent major security and data breaches, these systems were hacked via passwords, which former head of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff calls “the weakest link” in cyber security. Chertoff promotes the development of much stronger authentication technology, but in the meantime, cyber attacks pose a serious threat to everyone.
The problem of cyber attacks is so pervasive and critical that the government has tasked the DHS with combating cyber crime through its many divisions dedicated solely to this task.
In response to the critical threat of cyber crime, the DHS has also launched the “Stop. Think. Connect” campaign to promote cyber security. Government and educational institutions and also non-profit organizations that serve law-enforcement professionals, entrepreneurs, small and mid-sized businesses, critical infrastructure, and individual members may join. Members collaborate to share cyber security resources and tips, promote cyber security topics on social media, train law-enforcement personnel, host cyber security awareness events, provide public access to cyber security resources, and conduct school presentations.
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