15th Annual National Cybersecurity Awareness Month
This October is the 15th annual National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, an initiative started by the Department of Homeland Security to highlight the importance of protecting our personal information online. As always, the goal is to make sure all Americans have the tools and knowledge they need to make safe and secure decisions on the internet and to improve our national cybersecurity efforts.
Attempts to obtain sensitive information online and execute successful cyberattacks are increasing in frequency as the internet has become an integral part of our daily lives. Hackers are using ever-evolving technologies to access our sensitive personal information, making it even more important to take precautions to improve our security measures.
South Dakotans can take a number of steps to protect themselves online. This includes setting strong, complex passwords for online accounts and not using the same password for everything. Multifactor authentication creates extra layers of security for your accounts and can be a good way to prevent others from accessing your information. You should also delete emails that seem suspicious, avoid clicking on links if you aren’t sure of their authenticity and be sure to put a lock on your mobile devices at all times. Be cautious when logging onto unsecured Wi-Fi networks, such as at an airport, coffee shop or other public place. It is also discouraged to enter your credit card information, conduct online banking or engage in other sensitive tasks when on public Wi-Fi or when using a public computer. These are just a few ways you can protect yourself online. For more cybersecurity tips, visit www.dhs.gov/ncsam.
While we, as individuals, can take important steps to keep our personal information from leaking, the federal government must also consider the damage hackers can do if they are able to access secure military information, civilian infrastructure systems, electronic voting systems or any sensitive national security information. In the Senate, I chair the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity of the Senate Armed Services Committee. We work with members of Congress, the administration, military leaders and industry stakeholders to develop laws and policies that will protect the United States from damaging cyberattacks. In particular, our Cybersecurity Subcommittee oversees cyber efforts at the Department of Defense (DoD). Keeping Americans safe is our top priority.
In recent years, the lack of serious consequences for countries responsible for cyberattacks has emboldened them and has left us vulnerable to more attacks. Take for instance the 2016 election: there is clear evidence Russia attempted to meddle in our election. There is no evidence that they tried to manipulate the voting systems, but they did attempt to influence opinions through disinformation campaigns on social media.
I am pleased President Trump signed an executive order in September to impose sanctions on any person or government that attempts to interfere in U.S. elections. It shows our adversaries that the U.S. government is taking its responsibility seriously to protect Americans from cyber threats. We have a great deal of work ahead in the cyber domain, but I am confident in our ability to respond to this threat that is constantly evolving.
Keeping Americans safe from malicious cyber activity can be best achieved by approaching it from multiple angles. While it is important that we have clear policies in place to retaliate against cyberattacks, we must also focus on preventing hackers from attacking us in the first place. In addition to the role of the federal government, each of us has a role to play in maintaining cybersecurity. I encourage all South Dakotans to spend time this month reviewing your online practices and making necessary improvements to stay safe online.