National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2015 Has Begun!

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October 1 marks the first day of the 12th annual National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) — a collaborative effort among government organizations, businesses of all sizes, educational institutions, nonprofits, and consumers to ensure everyone has the resources they need to be safe online. Under leadership from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), NCSAM focuses on "Our Shared Responsibility" to promote a safer, more secure, and more trusted Internet.

In the past two years we have witnessed large data breaches on a new scale, impacting millions and millions of American lives. It started with significant retail data breaches that led to the loss of tens of millions of consumer credit-card numbers in early and mid-2014 and was capped off recently with the large breach of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's millions of records on current and former government employees. In between, we experienced the Sony breach and the release of employee information and e-mails, as well as several data breaches impacting health insurers, which exposed consumers' most intimate health information. Colleges and universities have not been immune from breaches, either. Several institutions of higher education have been attacked, and student and alumni information has been lost. The Identity Theft Resource Center reports that more than 670 million online records were exposed between 2005 and 2014.

This onslaught of attacks and massive amounts of stolen data flowing to cybercriminals and others leaves many people with a sense that the Internet is broken and that there is nothing they can do to protect their personal information and guard their financial resources.

NCSAM is designed to share actionable information with everyone so they can use the Internet safely and more securely. This year also marks the fifth anniversary of the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. campaign, the global online safety awareness and education campaign co-led by NCSA, DHS, and APWG. NCSAM 2015 will highlight the overall message of STOP. THINK. CONNECT. and the capstone concepts of the campaign: "Keep a Clean Machine," "Protect Your Personal Information," "Connect with Care," "Be Web Wise," and "Be a Good Online Citizen."

EDUCAUSE is one of NCSA's strongest partners and has been heavily involved in NCSAM since its inception. EDUCAUSE's efforts in cybersecurity, online safety, and privacy awareness help educate campus stakeholders, including students — a key population of young people. The organization provides valuable information to help students protect their digital lives.

Each week throughout October NCSA will focus on a different cybersecurity issue or theme. We encourage individuals, communities, and organizations to engage with the themes most relevant to them and join the global effort to spread cybersecurity and online safety awareness.

2015 Themes

October 1–2

Five Years of STOP. THINK. CONNECT.: Best Practices for All Digital Citizens

NCSAM will launch with a focus on making STOP. THINK. CONNECT. a guiding principle to help us have safer, more secure digital lives.

October 5–9

Creating a Culture of Cybersecurity at Work

All businesses face cybersecurity challenges. This week we will encourage businesses to proactively establish cultures of cybersecurity through employee education, risk management, planning, and tools.

October 12–16

Connected Communities and Families: Staying Protected While We Are Always Connected

Cybersecurity means staying protected in all of the ways we connect. This week we will share ways you can protect yourself and your family and what to do if you are a victim of a breach or cybercrime.

October 19–23

Your Evolving Digital Life

We are transitioning from an Internet of individuals connecting to technology to an Internet in which everything is connected. Securing this emerging Internet of countless devices is a challenge. This week will highlight how you can protect your evolving digital life.

October 2630

Building the Next Generation of Cyber Professionals

One of the greatest risks to cybersecurity is a shortage of professionals to protect the networks we create. This week we will provide information about cybersecurity careers and showcase the need for ongoing Internet safety and security education to promote cyber literacy for digital citizens.

How You Can Participate

  • @STOPTHNKCONNECT will host a Twitter chat every Thursday in October at 3 p.m. EDT/12 p.m. PDT. Each chat will align with the week's theme, and we invite you to join the conversation by using the hashtag #ChatSTC.
  • We encourage you to support NCSAM on social media throughout October by using the hashtag #CyberAware in your posts. Share advice with your friends and followers on how stay safe online. Learn how to get involved and find sample social media content you can download and share leading up to and throughout the month, images, memes, infographics, and more online.
  • EDUCAUSE, along with more than 60 colleges and universities around the country, has already shown its support by becoming NCSAM Champions. Join the list today!

We hope you will join us in supporting NCSAM 2015 and help spread the word about how everyone can stay safer and more secure online.

Michael Kaiser is executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. Mr. Kaiser engages diverse constituencies in NCSA’s broad public education and outreach efforts to strengthen the nation’s cyber infrastructure, including leadership of NCSA’s premier outreach and awareness campaigns, National Cyber Security Awareness Month, Data Privacy Day and STOP. THINK. CONNECT.

© 2015 Michael Kaiser. This EDUCAUSE Review blog is licensed under the Creative Commons BY 4.0 license.