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October is Cyber Security Awareness Month

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- As I sat down to write this, I wanted to start with a statement about how technology has found its way into every part of our daily lives, but every way I found to state that simple fact was followed by the voice in my head going, 'no kidding.'

Putting on paper what is firmly in the category of stating the obvious seemed silly, but then it hit me, maybe that's the point. Technology is so ingrained in our lives we forget how important it is to secure the technology we use and to be aware of what we do online.

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security in cooperation with the National Cyber Security Alliance and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center. This year marks the 10th anniversary of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and each week is dedicated to looking ahead at what DHS sees as the cyber challenges we all face in the next 10 years.

The first week kicks of the awareness campaign, and focuses on our shared responsibility to secure cyberspace. The second week, dedicated to mobile security, looks at how to be secure, regardless the device we're using. Week three focuses on developing the next generation of cyber leaders. The fourth week takes a look at cyber-crime and how to prevent theft, fraud and abuse. Finally, week five takes a look at the intersection of technology and the security of our physical infrastructure.

This is also the 4th anniversary of the "Stop.Think.Connect" campaign launched as part of the 2010 National Cyber Security Awareness Month activities.

According to DHS the "Stop.Think.Connect" campaign is "a national public awareness campaign aimed at increasing the understanding of cyber threats and empowering the American public to be safer and more secure online."

The nature of cyber threats requires a holistic approach across the entire spectrum of information technology user. All users, whether at work or at home, securing their piece of technology, presents a more secure cyber community that not only benefits the individual, but also lays the foundation for an environment in which it is much more difficult for cyber adversaries to gain a foothold.

Just like securing our neighborhoods is a shared responsibility between law enforcement and residents, securing cyberspace is a responsibility shared by all who benefit and enjoy its conveniences.

Despite all the talk and programs designed to increase our awareness of securing cyber space, breaches still happen at an alarming rate.

The blogger Paul Sparrows at hackmageddon.com tracks and reports cyber-attack statistics. His data for the period covering Aug. 1 to Sep. 15, 2013 shows 127 well documented attacks across a very diverse range of victims. Entities include major news outlets such as Fox News, universities and big business.

Just one successful attack can yield large amounts of compromised data. Vodafone in Europe was hacked and 2 million users' data was compromised.

And don't just think it's just big businesses and enterprises that are worthy of a hacker's time and efforts. The list also includes small businesses and associations that you might not normally think are worth a hacker's time. The list also included the American Choral Directors Association where login details of more than 600 users were leaked.

So, as you sit at home wondering what to do with all the time you'll have on your hands as lawn work dwindles with the approaching drop in temperatures, here are a few simple things you can do to secure your piece of cyberspace.

1. Ensure your anti-virus software is still valid, virus signatures are up-to-date, and the software is configured correctly.

2. Restrict access to your personal home network.

3. Most devices, to include wireless routers, personal wireless devices and software applications come with pre-configured passwords...always change default passwords.

4. Be mindful of the links you click on and the sites you visit.

5. Don't open emails from people you don't know. We've been taught that malicious emails have misspelled words and bad grammar in the subject line but not so much anymore. If you don't know who sent it, delete it.

The bottom line is it takes everyone who is part of the online community to do what they can to secure their piece of cyberspace real estate. Becoming a victim to online theft or worse, identity theft, could have much greater consequences for you than a theft of your personal property.

For more information on Cyber Security Awareness Month or the "Stop.Think.Connect" campaign visit the Department of Homeland Security's website at http://www.dhs.gov/national-cyber-security-awareness-month.