Be Cyber Aware While Online

Be Cyber Aware While Online

Computer Photo by: FEMA/Jacinta Quesada

PHOENIX - October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says is meant “to engage and educate the public and private sector partners… in raising awareness about cyber security and increasing the resiliency of the nation in the event of a cyber incident.”


Cyber security is a growing concern to business infrastructure and economic impacts. And as more individuals use computers, tablets and smartphones to socialize, shop and bank online, they should be concerned as their personal finances, identity and privacy are at risk.  


Cyberterrorism is the use of internet-based attacks to install malicious software and/or steal information off your computer.  Schools, retailers, banks, contractors, utilities, and governments are all susceptible to being attacked.


With a variety of national events coming to Arizona in the near future, including the Super Bowl, NFL Experience, Pro Bowl, Phoenix Open, and Barrett Jackson automobile auction, agencies and businesses are taking extra precautions. Individuals need to be vigilant against personal attacks as well. Cybercriminals often plan phishing scams around large-scale events, designing emails and websites to look official. Phishing is the attempt to get personal or sensitive information from people by posing as a trustworthy source. Phishing emails usually contain links to fraudulent websites where you’re asked to sign in with your username and password. If you do, the cybercriminals are then able to access bank, credit card, or other personal information.       


The Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM) is currently involved in a variety of events and exercises focused on cyber security. ADEM teamed with national agencies like the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) to help state and local agencies and businesses prevent, respond to, recover from and mitigate against disasters through planning, training and exercise activities.


Christine Figueroa is the Protective Security Advisor for DHS’s Office of Infrastructure Protection and an advocate for cyberterrorism preparedness. She says, “Exercises provide an opportunity for us to interact with our State and local partners, and make them aware of the resources we have to offer.”


Figueroa explained that NCCIC’s Operational Planning, Exercise, and Training Integration Unit’s (OPETIU) mission is to increase the cyber preparedness and resiliency of the nation’s critical infrastructure. OPETIU plans, exercises, and trains with public, private, and international stakeholders for cyberterrorist attacks.  “Exercises succeed in doing that,” she said. “Today, our cyber and all-hazards stakeholders are more familiar with the roles, responsibilities, policies, plans and procedures related to cyber incidents.”


Owen Zorge, Director of Information Technology for the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA), says that while the internet is a great place to share information and connect with people from around the world, it also poses dangers that you can mitigate against. “Keep systems and software patched, safely browse the Internet and be careful with the emails, attachments and links to help protect from identity fraud, theft and system compromise,” he said. “The costs of recovering from a compromise or attack are great. Communities, organizations and families are only as strong as their weakest link.”


In observance of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, DHS has posted various resources to its website where you’ll also find tips on how to stay safe on personal electronic devices.