The evolution of the internet and all the personal conveniences and business and communications innovations it has spawned has proved to be a financial powerhouse for U.S. prosperity. The internet has revolutionized the American way of life: the way we communicate, shop, bank, learn and entertain ourselves. But always lurking beneath each advantage is a malevolent disadvantage.
Online communication exposes us to cyber criminals and hackers who commit identity theft, fraud and harassment. Every time we connect to the internet — at home, at school, at work, or on our mobile devices — we make decisions that affect our cybersecurity, personal well-being and possibly national security. These cyber-threats require commitment from everyone to safeguard cyberspace — from government and law enforcement agencies to the private sector and, most importantly, individuals, the Department of Homeland Security says.
Cyberspace and its underlying infrastructure are vulnerable to a wide range of risk stemming from both physical and cyber threats and vulnerabilities. Sophisticated hackers and rogue nation-states exploit vulnerabilities to spy and to steal money and sensitive data. Others seek to sway public opinion to a particular political or religious ideology, or to undermine our democratic values. Malevolent actors are developing capabilities to disrupt, destroy or threaten the delivery of essential public services to cause chaos and do damage to U.S. economic and national security.
Disturbingly, a range of crimes are now being facilitated through cyberspace, according to DHS. This includes the production and distribution of child pornography and child exploitation, human trafficking, banking and financial fraud, intellectual property violations, and other crimes, all of which have substantial human and economic costs. Sexual predators lure victims; terrorist organizations recruit members and fundraise for their operations — and contraband, illegal weapons and counterfeit goods are traded and sold with impunity — and the ease of a simple click on the dark web.
Cyberspace is uniquely challenging to secure due to a number of factors: the ability of malicious actors to operate from anywhere in the world, the linkages between cyberspace and physical systems, and the difficulty of reducing vulnerabilities in complex cyber networks. Of alarming concern is the cyber threat to critical infrastructure, which is increasingly subject to sophisticated cyber intrusions that pose new risks.
As information technology becomes increasingly integrated with physical infrastructure operations, there is elevated risk for wide-scale, high-consequence intrusions that could cause harm or disrupt public services and the financial system on which our economy and daily lives depend. Resilience of cyberspace and exercising safe cybersecurity practices every time we go online have become critical homeland security imperatives.
For guidance about how to stay safe online, DHS sponsors Stop.Think.Connect., a national public awareness campaign aimed at increasing the American public’s understanding of cyber threats so we can all be safer and more secure online. Stop.Think.Connect. offers free resources available to everyone tailored to multiple demographics, including small businesses, students, educators and parents, and many others.
Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, DHS says. Let’s all do our part to keep the internet safe. When we all take simple steps to be safer online, it makes being online a more secure experience for everyone.