Taking Personal Responsibility for Cybersecurity

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month

“The line between our online and offline lives is indistinguishable. In these tech-fueled times, our homes, societal well-being, economic prosperity and nation’s security are impacted by the internet,” the National Cybersecurity Alliance

The truth of that statement has really come home to families and schools in the last 18 months. We have all become increasingly dependent on the internet to learn, to connect with each other, to shop for necessities, and to stay entertained. That makes Cybersecurity Awareness Month an ideal chance for families to learn more about what they can personally do to stay safe online. 

Start With Some Basics for Individuals

It’s easy to think of cybersecurity as a topic that’s just of concern to large companies and organizations, not something individuals can do much about. A central goal of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, however, is to point out all that we can do to keep ourselves and our information safe on the internet.

For example, there’s a list of basic steps you personally can take to keep your information safe, including: 

  • Use long, unique passphrases (they needn’t be complex) that are easy for you to remember and at least 12 characters long. 
  • Use 2-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication (such as a one-time code sent to your mobile device) whenever it’s offered.
  • Don’t click on links or download anything that comes from a stranger or that you were not expecting. 
  • Keep all software on your internet connected devices current to reduce risk of infection from ransomware and malware.
  • Limit what you do on public WiFi and avoid logging in to key accounts like email and financial services. 

These are just some of the recommendations you’ll find in this two-page guide to cybersecurity basics. You can do your part for cybersecurity awareness by sharing it with others in your PTA, your family, and your community.

Resources for Keeping Kids Safe Online

Acknowledging the increase in internet activity brought on by the pandemic, there’s also a Tip Sheet about Online Learning meant for parents and students: Security Tips for K12 Online Learning.

As kids get older, they need to take greater responsibility for their own cybersecurity. Thankfully there are some great resources available to help families have the “tech talk” about online privacy, and even a guide for helping kids learn about cybersecurity careers. These would be great resources to share. 

You’ll find all this and much more at the official Cybersecurity Awareness Month website: Cybersecurity Awareness Month – Stay Safe Online

In addition, National PTA, in collaboration with LifeLock has developed a web-based tool to facilitate parent-child conversations about being responsible with the use of technology. It’s called The Smart Talk.