The Internet has become an integrated part of the average person’s daily life around the globe, and more so for Americans. Unfortunately, for all the good the Internet has facilitated, it remains a chaotic and insecure environment as highlighted by the never-ending news cycle of cyber attacks and breaches. Because of this, it is imperative that every person who uses a computer and connects to the Internet is mindful of the risks and able to protect themselves to some extent.
On Sept. 30, 2014, the President of the United States proclaimed October as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM). The Department of Homeland Security, the designated federal government lead for the program, stated that "National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is designed to engage and educate public and private sector partners through events and initiatives with the goal of raising awareness about cybersecurity and increasing the resiliency of the nation in the event of a cyber-incident."
Lt. Cmdr. Michael South, Officer In Charge, Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Atlantic Detachment Rota, said, "As a passionate IT/cybersecurity professional, even I can become numb to the over-abundance of threat warnings, DoD incident reports, and media reports of hacks and breaches. For those who are not interested in cybersecurity, and simply want to use their computer or mobile devices for work and as a social platform, the current state of communications perpetuates information overload of the topic. If we really want to make a difference with user behavior within the Navy, then we must find a way to break through the barriers that each person has.
“These barriers may be a lack of technical knowledge, complacency, an attitude that they will never be hacked, confusion of what they can do and where to start, and many more. I believe we can only break through these barriers with personal interactive engagements that removes the technical lecturing, and instead focuses on that person's understanding and actual use, connecting the basic dangers to how it would affect them, and then provide easy steps they can take. We must make a connection with each person. I am proud of the NCTL Det Rota cybersecurity team for cracking the barriers for the Rota military community, and look forward to continuing our efforts throughout the year."
In support of NCSAM, NCTL Det Rota, Spain, planned and executed their own cybersecurity awareness campaign for the local military community under the leadership of Mr. Dave Rosinski. After registering as a NCSAM Champion with StaySafeOnline.org, Information Systems Technician 2nd Class (IT2) Martin Gasca developed a communications and engagement plan with the intent to break through the numbness of daily news and warnings and spark an active interest by the average person. While the more traditional tools were employed to cover all bases, with emails and base newspaper articles and billboard announcements, two personal engagements garnered the most positive attention where the audiences actively participated and gained applicable information.
The first engagement was conducted twice during the month outside the main entrance to the Navy Exchange, where members of NCTL Det Rota’s cybersecurity team facilitated a game with shoppers called the “5 Minute Challenge.” After providing only a name, and being able to infer a relationship with the military and Rota, the team would scour several social media sites and Google to discover as much personal information as possible about a shopper in just five minutes.
The surprise was apparent in every instance, and having related cyber risks through an interactive example that tied directly to a person’s daily life, a personal connection was established that broke through all the uninterestedness in technical configurations, numbness of the risks, and naivety that they would never get hacked. After being enlightened, people were very interested in taking several how-to pamphlets on securing their various social media accounts. From those events, several average computer users are now cybersecurity champions.
The second series of events focused attention on our youth, those who are considered “Digital Natives” yet are still unaware or unaccepting of the risks that cyberspace poses to their physical lives. In 18 separate events during the month, Gasca provided an interactive presentation to the Department of Defense Dependents School’s elementary classes in Rota. These presentations varied in content and discussion based on the age range of the classes and expected Internet use.
Gasca said, “Without knowing what to expect, it was a pleasant surprise to see the enthusiasm and level of participation from such a young group. Not only are they now more mindful citizens of cyberspace, but a few showed an interest and potential to become future cyber warriors. Cybersecurity should be a part of our daily lives. Best practices should be used every month, not just October, to help keep us protected when going online.”
NCSAM’s theme of Stop. Think. Connect. is a great foundation for any awareness program. Stop and take the time to understand the risks and potential problems, and take security and safety precautions. Think about the consequences of your actions and behaviors, and consider how they could impact you and your family's safety. Connect and enjoy the Internet with greater confidence, knowing you've taken the right steps to safeguard yourself and your computer.
The NCSAM campaign at NCTL Det Rota was a huge success because it was able to connect its message to people's interests and daily lives.