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October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

While many people may think of October as a time for dressing up in costumes, carving pumpkins and drinking apple cider, in the technology space, October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

This year marks the 20th year of Cybersecurity Awareness Month – a collaboration between the government and private industry to empower everyone to protect their personal data from digital forms of crime. Over the past two decades, Cybersecurity Awareness Month has grown immensely, reaching millions of individuals across hundreds of countries. And still, the need for comprehensive, ongoing cybersecurity education continues to grow.

Every year, WAPA uses information and resources provided by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the National Cybersecurity Alliance to educate employees about staying safe online.

This year, CISA launched a new, enduring theme for Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Secure our world. As we become more dependent on technology, it’s more important than ever to strengthen and adapt our cybersecurity habits. However, when most cybersecurity news focuses on massive data breaches, ransomware attacks and hackers, it can seem overwhelming. Perhaps you feel powerless against cyber threats.

One of the goals of Cybersecurity Awareness Month is to remind people that there are all kinds of ways to stay safe online. Practicing cybersecurity basics can make a huge difference in protecting your information and systems that you use. It is important you know about safe practices so you can do your part to keep WAPA information and systems secure, but also so you can safely navigate your personal life in a digital world.

Whether at home or at work, this year’s campaign focuses on four simple steps every American can take to stay safe online:

  • Use strong passwords. Strong passwords remain critical to protecting data. They are long, random, unique, and include all character types (uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols).
  • Use multifactor authentication. WAPA takes care of this for you at work, where possible. But in your personal life, you need more than a password to protect your online accounts, and enabling MFA makes you significantly less likely to get hacked. Enable MFA on all online accounts that offer it, especially email, social media and financial accounts.
  • Recognize and report phishing. Phishing emails, texts and calls are the number-one way data gets compromised. Be cautious of unsolicited emails, texts or calls asking for personal information. Avoid sharing sensitive information or credentials over the phone or email unless necessary, and don’t click on links or open attachments sent from unknown sources. Verify the authenticity of requests by contacting the individual or organization through a trusted channel rather than responding to inquiries about your information. At work, forward suspicious emails to spam@wapa.gov.
  • Update software. WAPA also takes care of this for you at work. However, on your home computer and mobile device, be sure to update software as soon as it’s available or enable automatic updates. Keeping your software up to date is the best way to make sure you have the latest security patches and updates on your devices. If automatic updates are not possible, regularly check for updates to keep your operating systems, antivirus software, web browsers and applications up to date.

Phishing continues to work because people continue to fall victim to the evolving tactics. Therefore, in addition to the steps above, be sure to stay current with your annual cybersecurity training.

Chief Information Security Office and Vice President of IT – Cybersecurity Kevin Schulz kicked off Cybersecurity Awareness Month with a WAPA-wide email sharing information about attitudes and behaviors around cybersecurity and emphasizing the critical role every WAPA employee plays in securing our information and systems. Every week in October, on the myWAPA homepage, Cybersecurity is sharing specific information and actionable steps you can take to be safer online and prevent against common threats.

If you have any questions about cybersecurity issues or best practices, reach out to the WAPA IT Call Center or an Information Systems Security Officer.

Notes: Shapiro is a management and program analyst. This article was adapted from information from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

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Last modified on March 12th, 2024