The Obama administration is stepping up its efforts to effectively educate the American public regarding cyber security issues. Janet Napolitano and President Obama have both conducted video presentations on cyber security in the past week.
With October designated by Obama as National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), the administration has sought to aggressively promote cyber education. The key point of NCSAM is that cyber security is a “shared responsibility” in which everyone plays a role. Obama’s talk, posted on the White House blog, seeks to explain the importance of cyber security and some simple methods to ensure good “cyber hygiene.” Obama highlights some of the easiest methods that account for the vast majority of cyber breaches, particularly keeping anti-virus software up-to-date. Additionally, John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, wrote a series of educational pieces on the blog, discussing the most common threats and some mitigation techniques.
Janet Napolitano issued a prepared statement on Tuesday on the central role of cyber security, what DHS is currently doing and looking to do in the future and what individuals should be doing to participate in securing cyberspace. After her statement, she took three questions from viewers, discussing current areas targeted by DHS. She also spoke to DHS’s desire to hire up to 1,000 cyber professionals, saying “not only does DHS want you, your nation needs you.” The message coming out of the administration is the same across the board: namely that everyone must participate to help secure the nation’s critical infrastructure in cyberspace. The government and the private sector can’t do it alone, it requires the cooperation of the average citizen.
Most cyber professionals believe that increased educational efforts are needed to help secure cyberspace. Ed Amoroso of AT&T recently discussed the central role that education plays in increasing cyber security. A significant number of cyber security problems stem from a lack of adequate knowledge on the part of average citizens. Phishing scams, for example, look to exploit individuals that use non-verified contact points to answer questions about supposedly compromised accounts.
While the push towards greater cyber security awareness is commendable, the administration will not be able to keep up the information campaign indefinitely. Dedicating one month to promoting awareness of cyber security issues is not productive if the messaging ends after that period of time. Cyber security is a consistent threat and should continue to be highlighted throughout the year. Phil Reitinger, the deputy undersecretary of NPPD at DHS, intends to continue to raise awareness of cyber security issues even after the end of October. While there is still some question as to the role various entities should play in securing cyberspace, one thing is for sure. Everyone needs to be aware of cyber security best practices and employ them consistently in all facets of their lives.