by Larry Magid

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month

I wish it were possible to simply delegate cybersecurity to the “big guys.”  Why not just let the government and big companies handle it?

If only it were that easy.  While it is essential for the government and big companies  to protect their own infrastructure and do all they can to help consumers, it’s also up to all of us to protect our own networks and devices — and that includes families.

Cybersecurity is patriotic

Not only will basic security precautions and device “hygiene” protect you and your family, it will help protect the rest of us too. It’s like public health. If you don’t get a flu-shot, you’re putting me at risk because — if you get sick — you might pass it on to others. Security flaws, too, can be infectious. You can pass them on to people you interact with directly or — if your computer is turned into a “zombie” as part of a “botnet,” your machine could unwittingly be recruited into a malicious army that attacks millions of other devices.

Only you can prevent social engineering

Even if laws and corporate best-practices could protect us against malware and hacks (which they can’t), there is nothing an officials could possibly do keep people from using poor passwords, failing to use PINs on mobile devices or refrain from clicking on bogus links and compromising their user credentials to phishing attacks.

A Parents’ Guide to Cybersecurity

Free booklet helps parents secure family tech and explain security to their kids

My colleagues and I at just published A Parents’ Guides to Cybersecurity (PDF), a free booklet that provides information on how to protect devices and home networks and answers parents’ top 5 questions, pointing out, for example, that children and teens can be caught by the same kinds of security problems that affect adults (drive-by downloads, links to malicious sites, viruses and malware, etc.). But  there are some special ways criminals get to kids, such as links to “fan sites” that contain malicious links or “free stuff,” messages that look like they’re from friends, offers of free music or movies or ring tones or anything else that a child might be tempted to download. Also, kids are particularly vulnerable to identity theft because they have clean credit records.

The guide also provides advice on how to talk with your kids about security, how to protect your family’s computers and mobile devices and why it’s so important to use strong, secure and unique passwords.

And, as my co-director pointed out in her blog post about kids and cybersecurity, kids love videos (which are sometimes the source of malicious links),  kids use family computers (so their activities affect all users), kids can be big fans (but not all fan sites are legit) and kids need to protect their social media and smartphone passwords to make sure others don’t break in and impersonate them (a form of bullying).

National Cyber Security Month

October is National Cyber Security Month, a time when companies, non-profit organizations and government agencies  sponsor public awareness campaigns around security. The month-long campaign is part of Stay Safe Online, the coalition of companies, organizations and government agencies behind theStop Think Connect which, according to executive director Michael Kaiser, encourages consumers to “stop and make sure you’ve taken the safety security precautions you should have, think about the consequences of your actions and behaviors to protect you against phishing or posting inappropriate content, and connect and enjoy the Internet.”

For more on this and a 10-minute audio interview with Kaiser, see my postCyber Security Alliance chief: We’re all connected” over at CNET News.