Security Experts:

National Cyber Security Awareness Month Kicks-off on a Blue Note

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), but unlike previous years, 2012 kicked off with bad news. First there was the attack on the White House Military Office (which was overhyped by some media outlets), followed by the National Cyber Security Alliance’s report that 90% of Americans do not feel completely safe online.

In a survey conducted with McAfee, the NCSA’s study said that 90% of the surveyed American consumers reported that they don’t feel completely safe online. Moreover, 59% say their job is dependent on a safe and secure Internet; and 78% say losing Internet access for 48 consecutive hours would be disruptive with 33% saying it would be extremely disruptive.

Today’s technology enables consumers to trade millions of dollars, conduct online banking, access entertainment, and do countless other activities at the click of a button. Unfortunately, this also means that cybercriminals can attack an account, a website, sensitive government information, and more in a matter of seconds.

“Fraudsters go where the money is,” reminded Andreas Baumhof, chief technology officer at ThreatMetrix. “Just as criminals have robbed banks for years, cybercriminals increasingly target online financial services and retailers, putting consumers at risk if these enterprises do not take proper cybersecurity steps.”

Consumers agree. The NCSA’s report highlighted the fact that a majority of respondents (86%) say they want to be notified if a trusted third party (e.g. Internet service provider (ISP), financial institution, e-commerce site) knew that their computer was infected with a virus or malware with 66% strongly agreeing.

The NCSA report also reveled that more than a quarter of Americans were notified that their personal information was exposed in a data breach this year. As a result, 61% of respondents said that they changed their passwords at least once this year. Yet, nearly 30% said they rarely, if ever, change their passwords.

“Cybersecurity is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain and if one account – such as Facebook or Google – is attacked, this can put an individual or company’s entire online identity at risk,” said Alisdair Faulkner, chief products officer at ThreatMetrix.

“Just as people with the flu are isolated to stop the spread of disease, users need to keep their online identities isolated by using unique passwords and security questions for all of their accounts.”

National Cyber Security Awareness Month, which runs through October, is a coordinated national effort focusing on the need for improved online safety and security for all Americans.

More information is available here

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.