Texas Governor Greg Abbott has declared October 2021 to be Cybersecurity Awareness Month with the hope of keeping all Lone Star State businesses and residents safe from online fraud schemes and other digital threats in the COVID-19 era.
“Our state and nation rely heavily on the internet to function in our day-to-day lives. More than ever, we have depended on virtual connections to conduct work, engage with our community, and foster educational opportunities,” wrote Abbott in his proclamation for Cybersecurity Awareness Month on September 13, 2021. “Technology is crucial to our telecommunications industry, transportation infrastructure, financial services, retail, health care, and emergency response systems, and allows us to stay connected to loved ones near and far.”
Online Security Campaign is Conducted each October
Each October the state of Texas conducts an awareness campaign to promote steps everyone should take to change their behavior and protect themselves online.
The campaign has taken on even more importance since the coronavirus pandemic started with bad actors around the globe trying to take advantage as more Texans are online daily.
“Unfortunately, the last year saw a marked increase in cyber threats in the public and private sectors. Our reliance on the internet reminds us that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility in order to combat a growing threat of malicious attacks from viruses, ransomware, spyware and adware intrusions used by bad actors to damage our way of life,” wrote Abbott. “Cybersecurity is a critical challenge for all public and private sector organizations, and we must remain vigilant to protect ourselves, our families, and our livelihoods.”
Here are some cyber security facts to consider, according to Texas A&M Corpus Christi:
- 85 percent of breaches involved a human element
- 99 percent of discovered mobile malware are hosted by third-party app stores
- By 2017, ransomware damage costs exceeded $5 billion
- 98 percent of cyber attacks rely on social engineering
- 60 percent of data breaches are caused by insider threats
Cybersecurity Awareness Month Activities
The Cybersecurity Awareness Month features a host of activities, including webinars and presentations, that can help businesses and residents improve their online security.
The 2021 webinars feature:
- Webinar: Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks by FBI Special Agent Steven Lupo
- Webinar: Cracking Passwords by the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute
- Webinar: Cloud Security Architecture by Sunitha Kumar of Cisco (live at 1 p.m. on Oct. 12 or on demand after)
- Webinar: How Security Makes Hackers’ Lives Difficult by Richard Emerson senior analyst at IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence (live 11 a.m. on Oct. 20)
- Webinar: The Changing Cyber Landscape by Nick Nesbitt, FBI Task Force Officer (live 11 a.m. on Oct. 26)
- Webinar: First Rule of Security Awareness is to Talk About Security Awareness! By Barry Caplin of Gartner (live 11 a.m. on Oct. 27)
- Webinar: Internet of Things by Andy Bennett, vice president of technology and CISCO at Apollo Information Systems (live 11 a.m. on Oct. 29)
The 4th Annual Texas Cyber Summit, a cybersecurity and hacker conference, will be held on Oct. 29-30 at the Marriott River Center in San Antonio. This conference can also be attended virtually.
Tips: How to Be Cyber Safe While Online
The Texas Department of Information Resources Office of the Chief Information Security Officer has developed cybersecurity tips to keep Texans safe when they are online:
- Update: Keep your devices, security software, and web browsers updated with the latest patches.
- Clicking: Be wary of email and online advertising links, a common way criminals can gain access to your computer. Rule of thumb: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- WiFi: Be extra vigilant when using unfamiliar WiFi hotspots. Do not conduct sensitive work on public WiFi and adjust your security settings to limit who can access your phone.
- Delete: When in doubt, throw it out. If a link, email, tweet, post, online ad, etc., looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it is best to delete, or if appropriate, mark as junk email.
- Fortify: Lock down your login by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys, or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Usernames and passphrases alone are not enough to protect key accounts like banking and email.
- Browsing: Check the security of a website before sending or entering sensitive information online. Malicious website URLs may look identical to a legitimate site but have a variation in spelling or different domain.
- Passwords: Make your passphrase a sentence with a separate passphrase for every account.
- Email: Do not reveal personal or financial information in an email. Be wary of communications that implores you to act immediately or asks for personal information.
“By utilizing these safe practices together, we can build a safer and more secure Texas of tomorrow,” said Abbott.