National Cyber Security Awareness Month

Cybersecurity advocates
National Cyber Security Awareness Month


Since 2004, National Cyber Security Awareness Month has encouraged Americans to follow best practices to make the web a safer place.
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It might seem a little strange that the U.S. government, whose National Security Agency (NSA) is responsible for much of the world’s online surveillance of hacking of private citizens, also organizes a national month dedicated to raising awareness of online security.

But that’s what National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) strives to do. Every October, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security aims to help people “Use the internet safely and securely at home, work, and school, protecting the technology individuals use, the networks they connect to, and our shared digital assets.”

But the NSA is not the only threat to our privacy online. In the past couple of years, major data breaches have targeted the Target retail chain, Sony’s PlayStation Network, Ashley Madison, and many other corporations. Millions of people’s personal data was taken not by the government but by hackers who wanted to steal money, crash online services, blackmail adulterers, and commit other crimes.

The goal of NCSAM is to protect you from hackers such as these.

But what exactly is National Cyber Security Awareness Month? Here’s a full profile.

How NCSAM began

Held every October since 2004, National Cyber Security Awareness Month is a joint effort by the U.S. government and industry partners to make sure “every American has the resources they need to stay safer and more secure online.”

NCSAM was originally organized by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance. But it’s since grown much bigger. The event now involves businesses, universities, and individual supporters across the United States. In 2015, around 1,000 companies and individuals championed the campaign.

The aims of NCSAM

NCSAM aims to help people and organizations improve their online security by raising their awareness of digital threats and by promoting better security practices through events and online resources.

Events: The campaign organizes and promotes cybersecurity awareness events across the U.S. throughout October. Past events have included workshops and an annual cybersecurity summit.

Online resources: The campaign’s website provides comprehensive digital security resources year round, including tips sheets, free security tools, helpful infographics, videos, and games. The resource center also provides information for parents, as well as tips for securing mobile devices, computer, and personal information.

NCSAM covers a broad range of themes

To stay up to date with new cyber threats cropping up all the time, NCSAM dedicates each week of October to a particular cybersecurity theme.

In 2016, the themes were:
  • Every Day Steps Towards Online Safety with Stop.Think.Connect.™
  • Cyber from the Break Room to the Board Room
  • Recognizing and Combating Cybercrime
  • Our Continuously Connected Lives: What’s Your ‘App’-titude?
  • Building Resilience in Critical Infrastructure

Props from the president

One of the most public supporters of NCSAM has been U.S. President Barack Obama, who officially announced October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month each year. In 2015, President Obama said:“By working together to prevent and disrupt threats to our digital infrastructure, America can continue pioneering new discoveries and expanding the boundaries of humanity's reach… I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the importance of cybersecurity and to observe this month with activities, events, and training that will enhance our national security and resilience.

“I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the importance of cybersecurity and to observe this month with activities, events, and training that will enhance our national security and resilience.”

The champions of NCSAM

Private and public companies, schools, non-profits, and individuals can also become “champions” of NCSAM by showing their support and spreading the word about online safety. You, too, can become an NCSAM supporter by spreading the word via social media, at home, work, or school.

Organizations who have supported NCSAM in the past include AT&T, Dell, IBM, the University of Illinois, Verizon, and password manager Dashlane.

The campaign continues to grow

Official numbers show NCSAM has grown steadily from its first year in 2004 to 2014. The campaign’s social reach in 2014 was 169 percent bigger than in 2013. Estimates say the campaign reached a staggering 5,371,602,127 people in 2014 (based on exposure, unique articles, broadcast reach, and print impressions). That’s a lot of cybersecurity awareness!

Tune in for more online safety awareness next October

With growing success and the backing of governments, corporations, individuals, and Barack Obama, it’s a safe bet that National Cyber Security Awareness Month will continue its good work in the coming years.