We live in a world that is unbelievably connected, and, in many ways, this is a good thing. The Internet allows businesses, organizations and individuals in places all over the world to use services from remote areas. The Internet now has an influence on most of our everyday activities.

This very connectedness is the reason why cybersecurity is vital to our nation, and to each individual. National Cyber Security Awareness Month, in its fifth year of celebration, is intended to build awareness of individuals, businesses, and organization for the importance of security measures on the Internet.

October’s activities are designed to raise awareness about cybersecurity and increase the resiliency of Americans in the face of a cyber incident.Online security is a very real concern for the American population. In a recent survey, it was revealed that ninety-six percent of Americans believe that they have a personal responsibility for online security. Ninety-three percent stated that their online security actions could protect themselves, friends, family and other Internet users all over the world.

To that end, each week of National Cyber Security Awareness Month will focus on a different aspect of cyber security.Week one is the “Stop.Think.Connect” campaign. Its activities focus on the shared responsibility of cyber security. Tips are aimed at encouraging every American—regardless of age or computing abilities—to be safer online. These tips include:

  1. Protect your identity by using different passwords for different accounts. Moreover, make those passwords harder to crack by using combinations of letters and numbers that do not make words. Change these passwords regularly.
  2. Your computer operating system has a firewall that can easily be turned on. Make sure it is on at all times. It is your first line of defense against hackers. The firewall blocks unknown sites, phoney sites, viruses and cyberattacks.
  3. Make sure your computer has antivirus and antispyware software, and that this software is updated regularly.
  4. Install the latest upgrades to your operating system.
  5. Protect your files from things like viruses, fire, flood and other forms of file destruction by backing up files on an external drive or other removable media, and storing these files in a secure location.
  6. Once installed, protect your wireless Internet with a password and other security measures. Check with your Wi-Fi service provider about protection.
  7. Never open emails from unknown sources. Delete them immediately.
  8. Before sharing important information like name, address, telephone number, and credit card information check on the security of the receiver’s website.
  9. If you discover suspicious or illegal content online, call police immediately.
  10. If you suspect identity theft, a computer crime or an Internet scam, call a computer expert.

The second week of National Cyber Security Awareness Month will focus on cybersecurity at work. This week’s activities will emphasize common threats to businesses and employees. Resources will help businesses and organizations be safer online and by encouraging them to examine their existing security plans.

Week three of National Cyber Security Awareness Month stresses the importance of protecting ourselves when we are connecting to the Internet at a site other than our home or business. The week’s activities provide best practices for utilizing mobile devices and social media. Cybersecurity precautions keep our families and our communities safer from such things as cybercrime, cyberbullying and Internet scams. Week three activities focus on using the Internet more knowledgeably and more responsibly. The week three goal is to build a strong knowledge base and provide the skills necessary for individuals to safely navigate Internet use. It also builds a public awareness of measures to take in the face of such things as security breach or cybercrime.

The fastest growing group of new Internet users is seniors. It is important that, as they access the Internet in a variety of ways, they also learn cybersecurity measures. Since they are unlikely to be acquiring this knowledge through the traditional education avenues, ways of providing senior cybersecurity awareness must be devised.

Week four is about how we connect to the Internet. It focuses on the digital “smart world” and the importance of knowing about cybersecurity with the devices we use every day including smartphones, tablets and medical devices. The week’s activities explore the present and future use of technology. Our cars and the other remote sites like hotels, coffee shops, restaurants and airports have become sources of “Internet on the move”. Securing all the devices that we connect to the Internet is a new real-world challenge. Week 4 activities highlight where we were in the past, where we are now and how we can make our digital lives safer and more secure in the face of rapidly changing technology.

The final week of National Cyber Security Awareness Month looks at future careers in cybersecurity. The week’s activities attempt to educate individuals and schools about the avenues of present and future employment for well-trained cybersecurity professionals.

There are several ways individuals and businesses can get involved in National Cyber Security Awareness Month initiatives:

  • Download information packages such as: https://www.staysafeonline.org/ncsam/get-involved/
  • Make use of the National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2015 hashtag #CyberAware in your social media messages now and during October so you can draw others’ awareness to the month’s special activities.
  • Take stock of your personal and business cyber security.
  • Encourage schools to develop and extend course offerings in cybersecurity so trained professional will be available.
  • Build awareness of cybersecurity by sending email to friends and family about National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Encourage them to visit STOPTHINKCONNECT.org.
  • Post cybersecurity tips, news items, and resources regarding National Cyber Security Awareness Month on your blog, your website and social media sites.
  • Sign up as a Cybersecurity Champion. Encourage colleagues and family members to do the same. It’s free; just click: https://www.staysafeonline.org/ncsam/champions/

No single individual, business or organization has sole responsibility for cybersecurity, but we can all do our part. We can help to inform others not just during National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, but all year round!