Katie Fenton, Online Team Reporter
The endless Facebook posts start to feel familiar. Someone posts a photo of a green highlighter because it’s supposedly national favorite writing utensil month. The month-long “holidays” have become increasingly popular. In September alone it was National Chicken Month, National Save a Tiger Month and All American Breakfast Month.
Now it’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Limited to October, it may not be a familiar holiday like Columbus Day or Halloween, but it is backed by the National Cyber Security Alliance and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
However, the meaning of cyber security might be confusing to some people.
Cyber security is a way to protect computers and data from unauthorized access, or hacking. It protects everything from computer networks and administration programs to personal vacation photos and work emails.
Cyber security isn’t aimed at hacking alone. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, cyberspace crimes also include the production and distribution of child pornography, financial fraud and intellectual property violations.
This year, NCSAM placed an emphasis on the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. campaign. To avoid risky online behaviors, the campaign encourages Internet users to follow three steps.
The campaign’s website describes the first step as, “STOP: Before you use the Internet, take time to understand the risks and learn how to spot potential problems.”
Using the Internet can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. However, online users might encounter problems if they don’t fully understand cyber security and how to protect themselves.
“Failure to protect electronic assets can result in identity theft, monetary theft, damage to assets, denial of services (and) loss of reputation,” Mike Stocke, chief information officer of information technology at Pierce College, said.
Similarly, personal decisions such as posting sensitive information to social media can weaken cyber security.
It’s safe to say most people wouldn’t post their credit card information online, but even minute details like someone’s date of birth, phone number or place of employment can compromise one’s personal security.
The second step to the campaign is “THINK.”
The website states, “Take a moment to be certain the path ahead is clear. Watch for warning signs and consider how your actions online could impact your safety, or your family’s.”
The Internet hosts a vast wealth of information. While it’s impossible to completely eradicate risky or suspicious websites, Internet users can use common sense to determine whether they should click on a link.
For example, if a student is conducting research for a term paper, they might avoid any websites that ask for personal information or attempt to charge them for access. For increased safety, they can limit their search to government or educational websites.
“People compromise personal security by their actions,” Stocke said. “Organizations can help people compromise personal security by not providing adequate security in online access, apps and tools.”
A formal website such as the Library of Congress homepage would most likely provide decent security and protection to users. On the other hand, a page dedicated to pictures of women clad in bikinis might not be the most protected website.
The last step to the campaign states, “Enjoy the Internet with greater confidence, knowing you’ve taken the right steps to safeguard yourself and your computer.”
While the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. campaign limits online safety to three steps, people can also protect themselves through the use of antivirus and antimalware protection.
For more information about cyber security and NSCAM, online users can visit staysafeonline.org, dhs.gov/national-cyber-security-awareness-month and stopthinkconnect.org.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost