By Larry Gunderson, Director of Information Systems, firstname.lastname@example.org
This October marks the 14th year Cyber Security Awareness month has been observed. As the City’s Director of Information Systems, my staff and I are dedicated to maintaining the security of all the technology resources that support the City’s operations. As part of that mission the City is a member of the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), an organization dedicated to improving the overall cyber security posture of the nation’s state, local, tribal and territorial governments. Membership in MS-ISAC provides the City with an outstanding resource to assist in meeting its information security program goals.
October Promotes National Cyber Security Awareness
Each October the MS-ISAC works in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Cyber Security Alliance and other organizations to promote National Cyber Security Awareness Month. This united effort is dedicated to promoting a cyberspace that is not only safer, but more resilient and capable of being a source of opportunity and growth for years to come.
The theme of National Cyber Security Awareness Month is “Securing the Internet Is Our Shared Responsibility.” There are plenty of current news stories about malware attacks, data breaches, and cyber security incidents. This has led to a general unease and an attitude of anxiety for many people while using the Internet. What is needed is for all users to adopt the security practices that will enable them to move from concern to confidence while accessing the Internet.
Basic Steps to Better Security
There are a handful of basic security principles that can blunt the majority of malicious threats out there today. Here are some simple steps to follow regarding cyber security, especially cyber security in the home:
- Keep your computer’s operating system updated and patched.
- Use both anti-virus and anti-spyware software and keep them updated.
- Do not visit untrusted websites or follow links provided by unknown or untrusted sources.
- Only install software or browser add-ons if you intended to install them in the first place.
- Keep your applications updated and patched, particularly if they work with your browser, such as multi-media programs used for viewing videos.
- Remove unused or unneeded software from your system. Not only does unused software slow down your computer, it also needs to be continually updated and patched.
Another more advanced, but very powerful, cyber security defense is to use a free, public Domain Name Service (DNS) such as OpenDNS or Norton ConnectSafe. By simply changing the DNS settings on your wireless router in your home you can be protected from malware and phishing websites, as well as block access to entire categories of websites. Here is a link to some free and public DNS services: www.lifewire.com/free-and-public-dns-servers-2626062
Automate Whenever You Can
It’s also important to follow the guiding principle that successful information security professionals use: automate your cyber security defenses whenever you can. Any tools that you can use to automate your security defenses, and avoid having to manually implement them, ensure they will be in place when you need them. One example is to use a tool that scans and updates software on your computer automatically. Several popular anti-virus software packages come with this feature, and there are also free, downloadable tools that will provide this functionality.
For More Information
To learn more about National Cyber Security Awareness month and access cyber security resources, please visit the following websites:
National Cyber Security Alliance – staysafeonline.org
Department of Homeland Security – www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect
Regardless of whether you implement the more advanced security defenses, just following the basic security rules will go a long way to protect yourself, your workplace and your family online. We are all global digital citizens and together we can create a culture of cybersecurity.