Many internet users may still not be aware of the cybersecurity risks inherent in using online devices and browsing the web. Are you? The 15th National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) is all about, well, raising awareness about the significance of cybersecurity.

Countless businesses and more than 0.5 billion personal users learn this lesson the hard way every year: taking online security and privacy for granted has a steep price.

There are plenty of companies that store sensitive user data without proper protection. Have you heard of the private hospitals hit by hackers and ransomware attacks? How about the 3 billion Yahoo accounts hacked in the greatest security breach ever (2016)?

Inexperienced individuals fall for all kinds of online phishing scams, open themselves to identity theft, and get their bank credentials stolen.

Cybersecurity is our shared responsibility, and we take our share seriously. This is why we have dedicated this post to the NCSAM, as an attempt to “spread the news” far and wide.

NCSAM – the beginnings

In October 2003, the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month was recognized for the first time and was thus brought to life. For the past 15 years, this project has been a collaboration between the US Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance. The goal of NCSAM is to help people and businesses understand the risks they face in the realm of the digital. The internet is becoming more and more ubiquitous – awareness is the first step toward safety.

Over the past 15 years, the online risks we face have gotten more sophisticated and more dangerous. While the battle against cyber threats may seem endless, it’s the right cause to fight for.

The more aware people and companies become of cybersecurity risks, the more chance they have to protect themselves and their customers’ privacy. Yet almost 600 million people around the globe are said to be affected by cybercrime every year. As such, we believe this project needs more attention.

The NCSAM goes international

In 2012, the first pilot cybersecurity awareness month project took place all over Europe. This became known as the European Cybersecurity Month (ECSM). Similarly to NCSAM, this European event also focuses on a different theme each week of October. This year, it offers 422 activities across 33 countries.

We can proudly say that the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month project has become more of a global event.

We can proudly say that the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month project has become more of a global event (although, it doesn’t necessarily take a whole month everywhere). You can find its counterparts across Africa and Asia as well – cyber threats know no boundaries. We are all affected by them no matter where we are. As long as we have a device with an internet connection, we can be exposed.

Interestingly, this October is also the five-year celebration of the so-called Hacktoberfest. This event is, however, about celebrating open source software and users’ contribution to it. The timing can’t be accidental, though.

Fifteen years in a row, NCSAM has been doing a great job making internet users aware.

How to be safe on the internet

There are plenty of cybersecurity risks in the wild. So, you may be wondering how to be safe on the internet with all the threats around.

As for the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, it is divided into four weekly themes as follows:

  • Week 1: Make Your Home a Haven for Online Safety
  • Week 2: Millions of Rewarding Jobs: Educating for a Career in Cybersecurity
  • Week 3: It’s Everyone’s Job to Ensure Online Safety at Work
  • Week 4: Safeguarding the Nation’s Critical Infrastructure

Both individuals and organizations can participate in these programs and events. This includes following Twitter chats and social media posts about cybersecurity throughout October. Raising your awareness this way can help you protect yourself from possible online dangers.

Cybersecurity as a shared responsibility

As for us, we are also here to inform you about all the potential risks of the online world. We are working hard to cover all areas of cybersecurity that could affect you in your everyday life, such as:

Without up-to-date knowledge of online threats, it’s increasingly difficult to protect yourself and your data. When you have a look at the cybersecurity statistics, you might pause for a silent moment in shock. This is why we support the idea of the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. It’s also our mission to spread valuable information on how you can use the digital highway as safely as possible.

The importance of cybersecurity awareness

In the beginning, nobody dared to think that the internet would become home to billions of web pages, an endless source of information. And nobody thought either, that the world wide web would turn into a “weapon” and channel for cybercriminals.

Nowadays, people from 1 to 99 years old use the internet on a daily basis. But are children, for example, educated and protected against violent, radical, weird, or simply age-inappropriate content? And, what about the rest, such as senior citizens, who may just be glad that they can see what their kids and grandkids are doing on Facebook or check some news sites? Do they know about online fraud, phishing and spam emails, malware infections, harmful third-party ads? Do they know how to protect their privacy online?

Most people only learn about these cybersecurity risks when it’s already too late, and they have already been hit.

Most people only learn about these cybersecurity risks when it’s already too late, and they have already been hit. Raising awareness is all about informing travelers on the digital highway about certain rules, safety tips, and solutions. The NCSAM is here to show them how to protect themselves from the unfortunate consequences of “not knowing.”

This is why the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a great initiative. Hopefully, more and more people and organizations will learn how to protect their privacy. Since cybercriminals seem to always be one step ahead of cybersecurity experts, it’s essential to keep your knowledge up-to-date.

Common types of cybersecurity threats

Let’s look at some of the most common cybersecurity threats that you might encounter while connected to the internet. This should give you an idea of why it is so important to be prepared.

Spam emails

You can easily infect your computer with a Trojan program or a ransomware threat by opening a spam email containing a malicious link or attachment. This can lead to a variety of consequences – from killing your operating system to getting sensitive data stolen.

Third-party ads

If you click on the wrong ad, your computer may get an infection directly or you may be redirected to a malicious website. When opening such a website, you could be scammed to disclose your banking details or other sensitive personal information.

Botnets

A botnet is a network of infected computers (“zombies”) cybercriminals use for spamming campaigns, spreading all kinds of malicious software, and performing DDoS attacks – all this without your knowledge.

DDoS attacks

Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks are about overloading a server or a website with requests coming from thousands of computers. This flooding happens quickly and forces the server to shut down and deny access to legitimate users.

Hacking

This threat is basically about gaining unauthorized access to your computer and sensitive information stored on your hard disk. Hackers can find weak spots in your security and take advantage of them to steal personally-identifiable and other sensitive data. These crooks can also install a keylogger to monitor your keystrokes and figure out your login details or other information.

Malware attacks

Finding yourself on malicious websites or clicking misleading pop-up and banner ads can get you in trouble. Just a few clicks, and you can drop all kinds of malicious code onto your system without even realizing it. Such infections include adware, spyware, Trojans, ransomware, browser hijackers, and other malicious programs. These threats can wreak all kinds of havoc. Your computer may just run slower, or criminals might be able to take complete control of your device.

Phishing and spoofing

These two are related and often confused. These types of online threats are about deceiving you to steal sensitive information from you. The attack can take several forms:

  • a fake email where the sender may seem to be someone from your contact list or an authority;
  • a fake text message on Facebook or other accounts seemingly coming from a friend;
  • a phony website that is posing as your legitimate online banking login page or any other trustworthy website.

Since you may not realize it’s not the real deal, you may disclose your credentials or other sensitive information.

WiFi eavesdropping

This is mostly risky when you connect to an unsecured public WiFi hotspot, for example, at an airport, a café, or a library. This unprotected and unencrypted connection enables cybercriminals to eavesdrop. In other words, they can “read” your web communications. What’s more, they might also gain access to your system and steal sensitive information (e.g., login details).

Using the wrong VPN

You may not have done your research right and ended up with an insecure Virtual Private Network (VPN) service to access geo-restricted web content or download using torrents. Certain countries, such as Turkey, China, and Iran are not fans of VPNs, to say the least. You should be careful in these regions and use one with the highest level of online security and privacy.

Exposure to undesired, violent, adult, and other inappropriate content

This mostly concerns children. Media streaming centers like YouTube, as well as online games, may expose children to inappropriate materials. This could cause psychological, behavioral, and developmental issues in the long run.

Conclusion

Use this wonderful opportunity to soak in the knowledge of professionals, who are constantly studying and devising strategies of how to cope with cyber threats. Sure, it’s not like the wild west of the late ’90s and early ’00s, but the stakes are a lot higher – there’s more sensitive data flying around and more people aiming to steal it. Make sure you’re one step ahead of the curve!