National Cyber Security Awareness Month: A Threat To All Americans

tt-cyber-security.gif“Cyber threats pose one of the gravest national security dangers the United States faces.” – President Barack Obama

Twice a year, during daylight saving time (it’s coming up in November), we’re reminded to replace the batteries in our smoke detectors. It’s a simple, inexpensive, precautionary effort, perfectly timed to our changing of the clocks.

During October — Cyber Security Awareness Month — this period should serve as a similar frame of reference and a call to action for another simple, inexpensive precautionary effort: Think about your cybersecurity.

Who among us doesn’t own a computer, use a smartphone, or log on to the internet? Most of us do, which makes us susceptible to cyber-related mayhem and crimes.

That’s why, on this 15th anniversary, it is timely to remind everyone that Cyber Security Awareness Month was a collaborative effort between government and industry to ensure that all Americans would be safer when being online.

News reports frequently include the latest highlights on cyberbullying, stealing consumers’ identities, hacking and getting your credit card stolen. All these crimes can create havoc in your online and personal life.

I asked a Moorestown IT and cyber security expert to pass along a few tips that everyone can follow. Keep in mind that these are only a beginning, but they’re precautions that everyone can implement. They include:

  • Computer Virus protection. It’s inexpensive and a must. Test both. It’s your first line of defense.
  • Make a backup. You hear this frequently, yet many ignore it. The best approach is an online, automatic system combined with another one that is removed from your home or office. You can do this now with a flash drive instead of an old-fashioned bulky hard drive.
  • The password game. Don’t use easy words or the same password for every logon. Use numbers and symbols with your letter. Mix them up. When possible use two-factor authentication. It’s an extra blanket of protection to ensure that it’s actually you who is logging on.
  • Hot spot hazardous. Be wary of public Wi-Fi. Use your smartphone as a secure connection whenever possible.
  • Encrypt the hard drive. It’s easy to do and is an added layer of protection if someone steals your computer.
  • Update your computer regularly. You need the latest updates to be more efficient and to fix any security holes.
  • Don’t open attachments. Be sure to know the person before clicking open an attachment. If you have any doubt, don’t open it. Opening unknown attachments is a shortcut to allowing a virus to enter your system and network.

These suggestions are what you can do. But there is more that I can accomplish as your representative.

While cyber security begins with the individual, some larger issues require legislative scrutiny and protection. That’s why I have introduced a proposal, S-2834, which “requires commercial internet websites and online services to notify customers of collection and discourse of personally identifiable information and allows customers to opt out.”

Privacy and access to your own digital profile are fundamental rights. My initiative would not only require websites to notify customers of breaches, it would mandate that they provide customers with notification of how they use the data they gather. And it would also ensure that the consumer has a right to opt out but would prevent any penalty being levied against the consumer who chooses to do so.

In addition to this measure, I have also proposed legislation that would remove handwritten signatures from the internet. Senate Bill 2736 would exempt handwritten signatures from public disclosure and require redaction when documents containing handwritten signatures are posted on the Internet. This will ensure that our “John Hancock” is not on display for easy taking by cyber thieves.

The digital age is here — permanently. While it brings us numerous benefits, it also imposes certain responsibilities. And whether we like it or not, it requires individual and government vigilance. And the first line of caution is your own attentiveness. This is a good time to start.

That’s my take, what’s yours?

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