What is Cybersecurity Awareness Month?
Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which happens every October, is a chance for governments, businesses, and charities to raise public awareness around online safety, from data privacy to the dangers of cybercrime.
The tradition is now in its 19th year, but it’s never been more important than it is today. With so much of our lives now integrated with the internet, it is vital that people understand the risks they face online and know how to protect themselves.
The history of Cybersecurity Awareness Month
Cybersecurity Awareness Month was started in October 2004, when the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA) partnered with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the US to raise awareness about internet safety.
Mass adoption of internet devices was spreading in the early 2000s, from affordable home computers to internet-enabled mobile phones. Initially, Cybersecurity Awareness Month was envisioned as a way to empower and inform internet users in a rapidly evolving tech space. For example, one of the NCA’s initial goals was to remind people to regularly update their antivirus software.
As years passed, the scope of the event expanded, with more private-sector organizations, charities, and governments getting involved. The way in which the month itself is structured also changed; starting in 2011, each week of Cybersecurity Awareness Month began to be associated with different themes, like cybercrime, education, small businesses, and law enforcement.
Almost two decades after its conception, Cybersecurity Awareness Month continues to educate and empower people to protect themselves in the internet age.
Why is Cybersecurity Awareness Month important?
Educating the public and raising awareness around cybersecurity issues is one of the most effective ways to reduce the damage caused by cybercrime.
While some online risks are out of an individual’s control — corporate data breaches, for example, or acts of cyberwarfare — most threats that internet users face each day are entirely preventable. Many incidents of cybercrime are caused or exacerbated by the victim’s lack of awareness about threats, best practices, and safe behavior.
Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a great opportunity to remind people of popular scam techniques like phishing and malvertising. It’s a chance to educate businesses and employees on ransomware prevention. Antivirus software and encryption services are essential, but even they can’t protect someone who doesn’t understand what they need to be protected from.
The organizations taking part in this year’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month are committed to giving people the knowledge they need to fight back against scammers and hackers. That’s what this event is all about.
How to raise cybersecurity awareness
Becoming more aware of cybersecurity and online threats is the best way to make your internet experience more secure. You can do this in several ways.
- Talk to friends and family about cybersecurity. Most people you know have had some experience with scams or other online threats. Maybe they’ve received phishing emails or seen suspicious adverts. Perhaps they even fell victim to one of these attacks. Sharing experiences and discussing odd or suspicious content you’ve recently noticed online can help you and everyone in your community stay safe.
- Make use of the National Cybersecurity Alliance. This group launched Cybersecurity Awareness Month and is heavily involved in its organization each year. It hosts online events, shares useful information about digital safety habits, and showcases the work of many other useful but less well-known organizations.
- Follow cybersecurity news. Most news outlets employ tech and security experts to monitor and explain the latest cybersecurity statistics in the online security space. Many people skip over this content, feeling that it’s not relevant to them, but if you regularly check in on the latest security and privacy news, you’ll be aware of emerging scams and exploits and of useful new solutions to these problems.
How can you stay safe online?
Cyber threats don’t go away after October, of course. You need to stay safe online all year round, and as you learn more about cybersecurity, privacy tools, and preventative strategies, you’ll be able to do just that.
If you’re wondering where to start, try following these three simple steps to boost your cybersecurity today.
Use strong passwords
The key to a strong password is its length. At the very least, it should be 10 characters long because the longer a password is, the more possible combinations hackers have to cycle through if they want to guess it. To make life even harder for hackers, make your password a random combination of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
Update your software regularly
We know how easy it is to hit “remind me later” on your software updates, but this will put you at risk. When you don’t update your software and applications, weak spots and security flaws can be left unpatched for criminals to exploit. Updates often contain essential bug fixes that keep you and your device safe.
Encrypt your data with a VPN
A virtual private network, or VPN, is a system for encrypting internet traffic; it’s one of the best cybersecurity tools available. If you download a VPN you can boost your privacy, prevent your internet service provider from monitoring your activity, and limit the threat of man-in-the-middle attacks. With NordVPN, you also benefit from Threat Protection, a feature that reduces malware risks, blocks ads, and restricts invasive trackers.