September 22, 2013    /    by

October Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Boom or Shutdown Bust?

Another National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) begins on October 1, 2013, and this could be the best or one of the worst ever. This is why...

Photo Credit: Flickr/nsub1


It is the best of times. It the worst of times.

Another National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) begins on October 1, 2013, and this could be the best or one of the worst ever.

First, the good news… this is the tenth anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) flagship annual awareness series of cyber-related events to get the word out regarding the importance of cybersecurity to all segments of society. From large enterprises to small businesses, from K-12 schools to state universities and from families to government agencies, there is no doubt that Cyber Security Awareness Month has made a positive difference for good over the past decade.

In addition, there is no doubt that the National Cyber Security Alliance's does an excellent job marketing numerous events all over the country using the "Stop Think Connect" theme, our shared responsibility regarding cyberspace, cyber champions and how to get more involved in cyberdefense. The list of fun and intriguing videos is very helpful, and I certainly encourage all readers to take a close look.

This rap is one of my favorites that you may want to share with colleagues and family members.

 There is a great list of planned activities, resources and events which are available at this Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center’s (MS-ISAC’s) website. The materials include:

- Joint DHS, CIS and NCSA Awareness Month Twitter Chat

- 2013 Cyber Pledge Campaign

- MS-ISAC 2013 Poster Contest

- MS-ISAC Cyber Security Toolkit

- State and Local Government Proclamations

- MS-ISAC State and Local Government Best of the Web Contest

- Link to Cyber Security Events

- Other Resources and Partnerships

What Could Go Wrong in 2013?

With so many wonderful events and activities planned, you may be wondering what could possibly go wrong to make this one of the worst October cyber awareness months ever? Enter the potential for a federal government shutdown beginning on October 1, and the serious questions surface. Will non-essential federal government personnel be at work? Even if a shutdown is avoided, will federal employees be able to travel? Will planned events be canceled around the country?

On September 19, 2013, CBS News reported that a: “Looming showdown over Obamacare may lead to a gov’t shutdown.” Here’s an excerpt:

“Congress is facing two deadlines in the next three weeks -- one to fund the government -- the other to increase the amount the U.S. can legally borrow.

If Congress doesn't act, the government could shut down -- and could default on its debts…”

While I don’t want to focus on the negative, contingency plans are already being discussed privately around the country – and especially inside the DC beltway – regarding steps that will need to be taken if the federal government faces a shutdown.

There are numerous scenarios that could play out. But no matter what happens, the next few weeks will bring tense moments. In addition, agencies will be spending time updating their security contigency plans for both cybersecurity and critical infrastructure, should the government shutdown occur on October 1. Take a look at this article on a similar situation from 2011.

Worst case - federal government leaders could be staying home and funds for non-essential cybersecurity activities may not be available for NCSAM events and other activities.

No doubt, there are many worse things that will happen if the federal government shuts down on October 1. The long list of impacts from a federal government shutdown go far beyond anything I can describe in this blog. However, even the threat of a shutdown is already impacting October plans for NCSAM.

The Cyber Show Must Go On

Regardless of what happens to the FY2014 federal budget in the next few weeks, the National Cyber Security Awareness Month will go on. State and local governments are planning activities and events around cyber awareness, such as our Michigan Cyber Summit – which is planned for October 25.

Other states are also holding major events during NCSAM, such as this Cyber Summit in Wisconsin and the CyberMaryland Conference in Baltimore.

I really like these ten reasons listed to not miss the Maryland event. In addition, there are many private sector events planned such as the Symantec Government Symposium and McAfee Focus events.

Closer to Home?

Meanwhile, governments, K-12 schools and institutions of higher education in every state continue to work towards the goal of improved cybersecurity awareness – whether specific events move forward this October or not. I’ve been impressed with efforts around the country to get the word out.

One excellent example comes from Weatherford College in Texas, which offers this outstanding eFraud Prevention Education Portal with a wealth of helpful cyberdefense information. The portal offers opportunities to test your knowledge, share best practices for online life and much more. One link points to this TED talk on “Everyday cybercrime – and what you can do about it.”

Weatherford College offers just one example of a growing trend to help families become educated regarding good cyber hygiene in local communities. There are thousands of others available online. In fact, the online protection information can become somewhat overwhelming - so be sure to share good examples that you like with friends and family.

Finally, as we head into this October’s NCSAM, I am reminded that each of us has an important role in spreading the cyber news regarding protecting our children, our governments, our businesses and our information online. With or without national or local events – our actions can make a positive difference and help secure one corner of cyberspace. Regardless of what the federal government does regarding an October shutdown, technology and security professionals across the nation are becoming cyber ambassadors for good.

Do you have any October cyber awareness events to share?