Cybersecurity Awareness

by Paul Davis

Wondering what you can do to make your business or personal computers more secure? The Department of Homeland Security has free tips and resources to help you. Find out about them here.

Paul Davis On Crime & Security

Stop. Think. Connect:
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

President Obama proclaimed October as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

"America relies on our digital infrastructure daily, and protecting this strategic asset is a national security priority," Obama wrote in his proclamation.

Obama went on to state that the information technology infrastructure reached into nearly all facets of the United States. While citizens look on the Internet as a way to exchange messages and ideas and to keep up with friends, it also controls vast networks essential for American prosperity.

Computers regulate the energy grid, aid in billions of Wall Street transactions, and keep track of trillions of dollars in bank transactions worldwide. Computers also regulate the country’s transportation system.

"We stand at a transformational moment in history, when our technologically interconnected world presents both immense promise and potential risks," Obama wrote. “Indeed, computer impulses speed through the air at the speed of light, and computer malware, viruses and worms travel at the same speed.”

Cyber networks connect people around the world at the blink of an eye, Obama noted, but attacks on computer systems can freeze the networks, compromise confidentiality and endanger children.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, themed, 'Stop. Think. Connect," highlights the need for protection, Obama stated, noting this month "provides an opportunity to learn more every about the importance of cybersecurity."



As if to illustrate the threat, the FBI announced earlier this month that they and international law enforcement have disrupted a large-scale, international organized cybercrime operation active in several countries that resulted in numerous arrests.

“Operation Trident Breach” began in May of 2009, when FBI agents in Omaha, Nebraska, were alerted to automated clearing house (ACH) batch payments to 46 separate bank accounts throughout the United States. The agents quickly realized the scope of the crime and partnered with local, state, and federal partners, cybercrime task forces, working groups, and foreign police agencies in the Netherlands, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom to bring those responsible to justice.

The cyber thieves targeted small- to medium-sized companies, municipalities, churches, and individuals, infecting their computers using a version of the Zeus Botnet.

The malware captured passwords, account numbers, and other data used to log into online banking accounts. This scheme resulted in the attempted theft of $220 million, with actual losses of $70 million from victims’ bank accounts.

“During this investigation, the FBI worked closely with our overseas counterparts to identify subjects who were instrumental in the development and control of the malicious software, those who facilitated the use of malware, and those who saw a means to make quick, easy money - the mules,” said Assistant Director Gordon M. Snow of the FBI’s Cyber Division.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the lead federal agency in defending critical cybernetworks and the agency launched the “Stop. Think. Connect.” public cybersecurity awareness campaign. The national initiative promotes simple steps the public can take to increase their safety and security online.

“We all share a responsibility to prevent cyber attacks and increase our nation’s resilience to cyber threats,” said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. “The campaign will help equip the public with simple information to keep themselves and their families safe and secure on the Internet.”

As part of the campaign, DHS launched a new “Stop. Think. Connect.” Web site, www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect. The web site provides a variety of free, downloadable resources and materials to help businesses and individuals increase their safety and security online.

Below are a few steps that DHS states you can take to not only participate in National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, but also enhance your own cybersecurity:

Make sure that you have anti-virus software and firewalls installed, properly configured, and up-to-date. New threats are discovered every day, and keeping your software updated is one of the easier ways to protect yourself from an attack. Set your computer to automatically update for you. Update your operating system and critical program software. Software updates offer the latest protection against malicious activities. Turn on automatic updating if that feature is available. Back up key files. If you have important files stored on your computer, copy them onto a removable disc and store it in a safe place.

"I urge all Americans to visit DHS.gov for more information about the practices that can enhance the security of our shared cyber networks," Obama wrote.

About the author: 
Paul Davis is a writer who covers crime & security for newspapers, magazines and the Internet. He can be reached at pauldavisoncrime@aol.com

Paul Davis on Crime & Security

 
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