Press Releases

October Is National Cyber Security Month

October Is National Cyber Security Month

Adam Rak, Senior Director, Government Relations, Symantec: Thursday, October 9th, 2008 | 10:00 am

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month in the United States. Symantec recently partnered with the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) to release a study on the state of cyber security in the consumer space. I had the opportunity to participate in a press conference along with the NCSA and the Department of Homeland Security at the National Press Club last week to discuss the results of the survey.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of National Cyber Security Awareness month in the US. The results showed that we have made some progress on the education front, but more work clearly needs to be done. The survey, conducted by Zogby, polled 3000 consumers, and 400 of those individuals allowed us to use Symantec's PC Help tool to assess their computers and check for the deployment of basic Internet protection tools; anti-virus, firewall, and anti-spyware solutions. The exercise was a way to compare if their answers matched what we found on their systems.

We found that 58% of the PC's that were assessed lacked the combination of the basic protection tools mentioned above. However, 83% of respondents felt safe or somewhat safe from hackers. Further, 80% of respondents claimed to have a firewall, but in reality, only 42% did. Finally, 84% of survey respondents were aware of phishing as threat to deliver spyware, yet half of the computers assessed lacked any software to protect against that threat. There is a clear perception versus reality issue among consumers that needs to be addressed.

On the positive front, 95% of computers scanned used anti-virus protection. Progress has definitely been made, but not using all three of the security protection can leave consumers vulnerable to the threats we face in today's online world.

The NCSA and its government and private sector partners need to continue to focus on educating consumer and small business owners on the need to have adequate security protection on their computers. Digital assets are becoming more and more valuable. We now store financial data, photos, music and other personal information on our systems. Developing the right behavior to act in the online world, just like we do in the offline world is critical, and necessary to be safe and secure on the Internet.

This education effort cannot just stop and start with an annual awareness month each October. Rather it needs to be an ongoing effort, which reaches out to people of all ages, adults and children alike. And it needs to stretch beyond the US. The Internet is borderless and provides great opportunity and promise, but it is not without threats and risks. Those same threats and risks that are faced online here in the US are no different than those faced in Germany, Brazil, or Singapore.

How about a global cyber security awareness month for 2009?