Lori Haney: October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Another year, another October, another “National Cyber Security Awareness Month.” Before this one slips off the calendar, consider the theme that has marked the 2016 version of the annual public-private effort to broaden awareness of the importance of protecting the nation’s information resources.

The theme — “Our Shared Responsibility” — reflects a basic truth. The Internet is a shared resource. Safeguarding the digital highway that connects and supports so many functions crucial to daily life — finance, commerce, transportation, healthcare — requires the participation of just about everyone.

The financial sector certainly bears a major responsibility. That’s why we at City National constantly monitor the threat environment. That’s why we put so much effort into securing communications for our clients and protecting against fraud. However, it’s not just banks or large enterprises that must be vigilant and active in fighting cyber crime.

A chilling vulnerability: When it comes to small businesses, the hacker calculation is a chilling one — small firms have more targetable information assets than households, but fewer security resources than large companies. That makes them vulnerable.

Given the reality of the threat environment, what is the small business owner to do? How can you identify your weak spots? How do you fix them? Where do you start?

The good news is many high-quality resources are available free of charge to owners who want to educate themselves on information security and improve their ability to protect both their businesses and their customers.

Learn the basics: A good first stop is “StaySafeOnline.org,” powered by the National Cyber Security Alliance, a nonprofit public-private partnership that brings together the Department of Homeland Security and some of the nation’s leading technology companies. A visit to the “StaySafeOnline” web site is an immersion in the concepts that define information security:

What is malware?

What are botnets?

What is phishing?

What makes passwords good or bad and why does it matter?

Why should I worry about my mobile devices?

The answers are provided in clear English. This is a great educational resource.

Create a plan: A good second step involves planning. The large-company approach to just about any challenge involves developing a plan and implementing it. Planning often seems less attractive to small enterprises caught up in coping with day-to-day business demands. Nevertheless, time spent in thinking and planning ahead can pay big dividends.

The Federal Communications Commission has an online resource, the Small Biz Cyber Planner. Found at https://www.fcc.gov/cyberplanner, this online tool generates plans that can be easily customized. Users can choose from a menu that covers a range of categories, including the following:

Data security

Network security

Website security

Employee training

Payment cards

Secure your social media: Your marketing depends on social media? The Small Business Administration can help you beat hackers with their Social Media Cyber-Vandalism Toolkit.

The tools are out there. We’re all in this together. Don’t let this October slip by without making a start on protecting your business and your customers as you do business in the digital world.

Lori Haney is senior vice president and Northern Nevada market manager at City National Bank.


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