This annual month-long initiative, which is led by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), seeks to provide every American with the resources required to stay safe online.
As we integrate technology into different aspects of our lives, we are increasingly susceptible to potentially crippling attacks online.
Cyber-attacks do pose not only a threat to our personal lives but also the economy and national security. In the past, staying safe online involved obtaining decent antivirus software.
However, cyber-attacks are getting more sophisticated so we must continue to update the measures we take to protect ourselves online.
The Department of Homeland Security is known for championing cybersecurity and is working hard to find out what happened during the 2016 Presidential elections, trying to find out what was stolen from Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s laptop, issues with the Sec. of State’s devices from around 2012 and why they were destroyed with hammers, and other possible concerns in the public and private sectors.
In May 2018, the agency released a document outlining its strategy to promote cybersecurity over the next five years.
Meanwhile, the National Cyber Security Alliance is a non-profit organization that creates public-private partnerships with the aim of educating and empowering users to take charge of their online security.
Earlier this month, the alliance unveiled the NCSA Awards which honors organizations and individuals that contribute to digital safety.
Many other organizations are supporting the NCSAM 2018 apart from the DHS and NCSA. Over 610 organizations and 280 individuals have already signed up to participate in the NCSAM 2018 by spreading the word about Internet security throughout October.
You can sign up here to be part of the Champions.
NCSAM 2018: What You Need to Know
This year, the main theme for the NCSAM is: Cybersecurity is our shared responsibility
The theme highlights our increasing dependence on the Internet – both directly and indirectly – and why securing it is everyone's duty. No entity is solely responsible for the web. Instead, everyone has a role to play.
“NCSAM is the perfect opportunity for Internet users of all ages and organizations to commit to taking steps to protect themselves, their customers and their online information.”
“As data breaches and other forms of cybercrime become more prevalent and sophisticated, it's important for everyone to understand the role they can play in promoting a safer, more secure and more trusted Internet.” – NCSA Executive Director Russ Schrader.
Along with the central theme, there are four key themes for the cybersecurity awareness month initiative:
1. Make your home a haven for online safety.
The first week of October will be dedicated to highlighting why it is essential for parents and caregivers to teach kids about online safety.
While we educate our kids about safety practices for real-life situations, we often neglect to teach them how to stay safe in the virtual world. During the week, families will be provided with practical tips that will help to prevent them from being victims of cyber-attacks.
2. Millions of rewarding jobs: Educating for a career in cybersecurity.
The second week of the NCSAM 2018 will be used to provide parents, teachers, and guardians with the tools needed to inspire kids to pursue a career in the cybersecurity field. The purpose of this is to combat the alarming, growing shortage of professionals in cybersecurity.
3. It's everyone's job to ensure online safety at work.
The third week will be devoted to educating workers about cybersecurity and training them to deal with potential online threats. Companies will also be provided with tools to boost their Internet security. Anyone who has seen 24 will know how vital this is.
4. Safeguarding the nation's critical infrastructure.
The final week of the month will be used to emphasize the importance of the Internet for our critical national infrastructure, and how vulnerable they are to attacks. Members of the public will also be educated on their role in promoting national security online.
The Current State of Cybercrime
In 2016, cybercrime was the second highest reported crime in the world. As a result of this development, we are faced with unprecedented challenges in the virtual world.
Earlier this year, the Online Trust Alliance (OTA) released its annual report stating that the number of cyber incidents nearly doubled in 2017. However, the organization went on to note that up to 93 percent of those attacks were avoidable.
According to the Center for Internet Security (CIS), up to 594 million people are affected by cybercrime globally every year. In 2014, cyber-attacks were estimated to have cost the world economy up to $500 billion.
The Herjavec Group has predicted that by 2021, the damages from cybercrime will amount to $6 trillion annually. Pretty incredible but if you saw the poignant and impressive movie Blackhat, not that surprising.
Meanwhile, by 2021, companies are expected to increase their spending on cybersecurity to up to $1 billion yearly.
Cybersecurity experts have warned that hackers are continuously upgrading their skills, and their modes of attack are evolving.
In its 2018 Internet Security Threat report, Symantec noted that the number of online criminals using other people's computers to mine cryptocurrency increased by 8,500% in 2017.
The Internet security company also revealed that the instances of malware being implanted into legitimate software updates increased by 200% in 2017.
Meanwhile, McAfee released a report titled ‘Economic Impact of Cybercrime – No Slowing Down' in February 2018 which estimated daily cybercrime activity.
According to the report, there are 80 billion malicious scans, 300,000 new malware attacks, 33,000 phishing attacks, and 4,000 ransomware attack daily. These attacks result in up to 780,000 being exposed to hackers every day.
These statistics show that cybercrime is a serious issue. While the threat is getting more pernicious, members of the public are doing little-to-nothing to upgrade our cybersecurity measures.
What's even more alarming is that there is a shortage of cybersecurity experts. By 2022, there will be an estimated 1.8 million open jobs in the field.
What Are the Most Common Cybercrimes?
One of the first steps to protecting yourself online is knowing about the different types of cyber threats. This is not only important for individuals but also businesses. Gone are the days when getting a virus was the worst thing that could happen to you online.
Today, cybercrime is more sophisticated. There are vast networks of hackers working together and using high-tech tools to hijack your data. We'll briefly discuss some of the most common cyber crimes below.
This type of cyber attack involves hackers using the computers of unsuspecting people to mine for the cryptocurrency. There has been a rise in crypto jacking due to the boom in cryptocurrency. The Internet security service provider, Symantec, logged 1.7 million crypto jacking attacks in December 2017 alone. There are different ways hackers attack people's computers for crypto jacking.
For example, hackers can send a person an email with a link that launches a crypto mining code in the background. Another way crypto miners can attack your computer is using pop-up ads on websites. When the ad appears, the crypto mining code loads in the background.
Unlike other forms of cyber attacks, it can be difficult to determine if crypto miners have attacked your device. The only visible sign is that your device may become slower. Therefore, unless you are very vigilant, you may not even notice it.
(38% of all cyber attacks on companies in 2017)
Ransomware is another type of cybercrime that is quickly growing in popularity. We saw this in an episode of season 6 of the amazing show The Good Wife. Currently, this is one of the hot issues in the cyber security world. According to Statista, there were 184 million ransomware attacks in 2017.
While that is alarming, it pales in comparison with the 638 million ransomware attacks in 2016. We also had a lot more terrorist attacks in America in the few years before 2017 as well – interesting to note!
How much money does Ransomware make?
Ransomware is a type of malware that automatically installs itself on a device without the user's permission. When the ransomware has been installed successfully on your computer, it encrypts your files and sends you a notification to pay a ransom to have the data decrypted.
Sometimes ransomware attacks begin with a link in an email that appears to be from someone you know. The link will open a site, and the ransomware is downloaded in the background. It is challenging to protect yourself against ransomware attacks.
Many victims of this type of cyber attack choose to pay the ransom. Symantec revealed that the average ransomware demand was about $522 in 2017.
However, paying the ransom doesn't always resolve the situation. According to the 2016 Kaspersky Security Bulletin, one in five medium-sized companies that paid ransomware attackers did not get their files back.
Companies operating in the finance and health sector were the top targets of ransomware attacks in 2017, according to Beazley. However, companies in education, information technology (IT), entertainment, manufacturing, transport, and retail have also been affected by ransomware.
Malware is a broad term that describes a type of malicious software that is designed to steal information, spy on users or conducts other illegal activities. Ransomware is one of the most popular kinds of malware, but there are many others which are equally dangerous. This type of cyber attack is widespread. Symantec revealed that it blocked 24,000 malware attacks daily in 2017.
The underlining goal of malware is to get access to a person's computer without their permission. SonicWall Capture Labs has revealed that in the first two quarters of this year, there has been up to 5.99 billion malware attacks.
There are many ways malware can attack your device. The most common mode of attack is using a trojan horse (i.e., a malicious code lodged in a legitimate program). A virus is a malware that is designed to self-propagate themselves so they can quickly infect all your connected devices.
You can protect yourself against malware attacks by using a salient antivirus system and keeping your machine updated. You don’t want to depend on Napoleon Dynamite for this. That would be unwise!
(34% of all cyber attacks on companies in 2017)
This is another popular type of cybercrime. Phishing involves getting users to disclose sensitive information like their financial details under a false pretext. For example, you may receive a seemingly legitimate email from a real contact like your bank or an online store. You may be required to confirm your credit/debit card details or password if you visit the link in the email. This will allow hackers to steal your information.
Kaspersky revealed that one in ten of its users were targeted in a phishing attack in the second quarter of 2017. The Internet security company prevented a total of 46,557,343 phishing attempts in that period.
Denial-of-Service Attack (DDOS)
This type of cyber attack involves bombarding a computer or site with a lot of requests so that there is an overload and it stops functioning properly. Many popular websites like Dream Host, the Boston Globe, and the UK National Lottery were victims of DDOS attacks in 2017. In a report released last year, Kaspersky Lab revealed that 33% of the companies surveyed had experienced a DDOS attack that year.
Apart from the cybercrimes mentioned above, there are many other forms of cyber attack including hacking Internet of Things (IoT) devices, hijacking websites, cyberstalking, sharing child pornography, making sexual advances to children identify theft, and more.
Top Cybersecurity Tips
Now that we know some common types of cybercrime, here are some helpful cybersecurity tips that you can apply to stay protected on the web.
1. Use a Strong Password
Although everyone knows the importance of using a strong password, many people do not understand what constitutes a strong password and how to create one. Also, some of the old techniques for creating strong passwords (like using uppercase and lowercase letters) are not effective anymore.
There are many ways to create a strong password, but the best way is to use a secure password generator tool. Our free tool below will allow you to create a strong password that will provide your online accounts with that security and peace of mind you need.
Secondly, I recommend you invest in a password manager tool. A password manager greatly enhances the security of your passwords and reduces the chances of your password falling into the wrong hands when you do not store it properly.
2. Use An Anti-Virus Software
There are so many anti-virus programs on the market that we often overlook the importance of choosing a good one. Not using an effective anti-virus is like failing to lock your doors properly in a neighborhood that is known for break-ins and robberies.
An anti-virus is essential to protect your computer against malware attacks. But getting an anti-virus is half of the job, the other half involves keeping it updated. Every anti-virus software come with a virus registry which is updated frequently with the latest virus signatures.
This registry provides your device with thorough protection from all the known types of viruses. If you fail to update your anti-virus software, it will not be able to give you full protection because new infections may go undetected.
3. Stay Safe on Social Media
The advent of social media means our lives are documented online. While this is an excellent way to connect with people, it increases the chances of your personal information falling into the wrong hands. There have been many instances of hackers taking over popular accounts on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook (the most popular by far), and others.
There are many ways to protect your social media accounts from falling into the hands of hackers. Here are a few tips:
- Ensure you are using a different, strong password for each social media platform that you're active on.
- Avoid sharing sensitive information on social media.
- Be selective with the friend requests that you accept and block spammers.
- Do not click links that seem suspicious.
- Read the privacy options on social media platforms and take advantage of them.
- For a social media site that is as controversial as Twitter, perhaps don’t even use it. Why take the risk?
4. Use a VPN
A VPN (or virtual private network) is a software that creates an encrypted connection between your device and a network. This ensures that no one can hack you using your IP address.
Although VPNs have been around since the nineties, their popularity is surging today. In the past, VPNs were mostly patronized by companies. However, individuals are increasingly opting for this extra layer of online security.
The way VPNs work is straightforward. Instead of supplying your IP address when you visit a site, a VPN will provide a gateway IP.
So, while you may be in Atlanta, it may show that you are in Paris if you visit a site using a VPN. The primary purpose of a VPN is to prevent hackers from tracking your location. It also encrypts your data and restricts unauthorized access.
Cybersecurity Tips for Parents
The Internet is a beautiful space that is filled with valuable resources that children can interact with to learn and have fun. However, as a parent or guardian, you must educate your child about the importance of cybersecurity. These are a few ways you can keep your children safe while they are using the Internet:
- Keep a tab on the websites that your children visit and what they do online.
- Use an Internet filter so they can only access age-appropriate websites and content.
- Ensure the computer your children use has an updated operating system and antivirus.
- Teach your children not to share sensitive information online, and to be cautious when interacting with strangers over the web.
- Teach your children to report instances of cyberbullying and how to react when they get a negative experience online.
Cybersecurity Tips for Children
Cybersecurity is not only important for adults but also for children. As soon as your child starts to access the Internet, you must educate him/her about the value of online safety. These are some of the cybersecurity tips you can share with your kids:
- Be cautious of what you click.
- Only download apps from legitimate sites.
- Do not interact with strangers and even if you do, never agree to meet them up or share any personal information with them.
- Educate them about the importance of using a strong password.
- Teach them to spot dubious offers from scammers trying to steal personal information.
- Ensure your kids ask for permission before joining online groups or participating in any competition online.
Safety is Paramount
The Internet is now part of our lives, so we must also embrace cybersecurity by putting the proper measures in place to protect ourselves online. It is your responsibility to keep yourself safe online.
The goal of the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) 2018 is to emphasize the importance of cybersecurity and provide the public with useful tips to stay protected. As the saying goes, “to be forewarned is to be forearmed.”
You must stay informed and learn about the latest security measures to avoid being a victim of a cyber-attack. Everyone can participate in NCSAM 2018. Remember, the Internet belongs to everyone and it is our joint responsibility to safeguard it.