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IMPROVING CYBERSECURITY REQUIRES TEAMWORK AND COLLABORATION
Oct 28, 2015

The annual advent of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month reminds us clearly that cybersecurity protection and resilience is a team sport and that only through partnership and collaboration can we improve our national and global capability to address the evolving risk in cyberspace.


All over the country – and perhaps beyond – public, private, academic, and non-profit organizations of all sizes are advancing education and awareness efforts to raise the consciousness for Americans in regards to cybersecurity, and in support of National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Our collective efforts to raise the bar of cybersecurity protection, preparedness, and resilience will help make our nation safer and more secure. Congratulations to the US Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance for their work to organize and coordinate the various activities during the month of October.


However, one designated month of focus on this topic is no longer enough.


The risk presented by perpetrators of criminal conduct in cyberspace continues to grow and the bad guys are getting better at their craft. We must respond.


There was a time not too long ago when folks did not worry about locking doors or windows at their homes. However, the risk of criminal activity in our neighborhoods and communities caused homeowners, landlords, and businesses to take steps to improve security in order to protect families and property. Today, not only do many people lock their doors and windows, but they have installed alarm systems and even security cameras in their homes and businesses.


In the online world, far too many of us have had our credit cards or bank accounts compromised and even our identity information stolen. Our individual and collective vigilance is necessary each day and it is our continuing challenge to move to a culture of security in cyberspace. We do not have to be technology experts to learn not to click on links or attachments that we do not trust. It does not cost us anything, other than a few minutes of our time, to periodically change our passwords as an important measure.


National Cyber Security Awareness Months helps draw attention to these issues in a visible and concentrated way. As important and valuable as it is, it is not enough.


Now it is time for us all to leverage the lessons of National Cyber Security Awareness Month and apply those every single day to move all cyber users and the cyber community at large to a culture of security, and address fundamental protection practices that matter and make a difference.


Implementing a comprehensive and sustained national education and awareness campaign that engages government, industry, academia, non-profits and NGO’s, and stakeholders across the spectrum of cyber users is an important pillar in the foundation of driving a culture of cybersecurity. Bringing together department and agencies of the federal government, state, local, tribal and territorial governments, small, medium and large business, along with K-12 and higher education, and the wide array of non-profits and non-government organizations to help teach users of all levels of sophistication about basic protection measures to improve cyber hygiene will address the challenge in a meaningful and powerful manner.


Working together to build on the examples of the US Stay Safe Online and the UK Get Safe Online, we can organize information in a manner that will benefit a broad range of users. Such a tool will be incredibly valuable in our national efforts to raise the bar of protection and resilience, while also turning the tables on the bad guys by making it more difficult and more expensive to perpetrate their nefarious activities. It is estimated that roughly 80 percent of exploitable vulnerabilities are the result of poor or no cyber hygiene. Instead use of basic, fundamental measures of cyber protection that matter do make a difference.


Many users simply do not know what to do or where to go to get reliable information about simple steps they can take to improve their cyber protection.


Imagine if every federal department and agency had a link on their own site that connected to a website for citizens to visit and learn about how to better protect themselves in cyberspace. Imagine if every state, local, tribal, and territorial government included a link to such a website to help citizens learn about how individual users, small businesses, and even larger enterprises could improve their cyber protection. Imagine if every elected official at the federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial level included a link to that website on their constituent home page that helps inform folks about measures they could implement to reduce the risk of a cyber intrusion. This would be leading by example and would not be a heavy lift to implement.


Imagine if businesses, trade associations, school divisions, non-profits organizations and many other stakeholders similarly included information in their regular publications and communications about how to access such a website to share recommended measures for improving cyber hygiene and overall cyber security protection.


Imagine if public service announcements, TV spots, posters and other collateral material, and a wide spread supporting social media campaign that directs online users to a site where they can get information about low-cost, no-cost measures that will make them safer and more secure.


A coordinated campaign will inspire, motivate, educate, and empower users to take ownership of steps and measures that they can take to make a difference in improving our national cybersecurity and resilience and make our nation safer and more secure.


The US can be a leader in the global community as cyber knows no sovereign boundaries. Let us leverage National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2015 and build on the good work of so many during October, to launch a joint, collaborative national initiative to make protecting our identities, our bank and credit card accounts, our intellectual property and business secrets, and implement a national priority that recognizes the growing and evolving risk in cyberspace.


Together, we truly can make a meaningful difference. Teamwork and collaboration are essential. The only thing missing is leadership and will. We are pushing toward the end of October, so let’s get to it!

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