CISA kicks off Cybersecurity Awareness Month in time for new national security adviser

Being cyber smart is an ongoing battle for federal agencies and industry, not to mention the general public. The prevalence and sophistication of new technologies means individuals have to be more proactive when using devices or sharing personal information.

Luckily, October is also National Cybersecurity Awareness month — a joint effort between the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Cyber Security Alliance.

Erin Shepley, DHS, CISA
Erin Shepley, team leader for National Cybersecurity Awareness Month at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

To mark the beginning of the campaign, Erin Shepley, team leader for National Cybersecurity Awareness Month at CISA, spoke with Federal News Network about the agency’s 2019 toolkit. It includes advice in 13 areas, from social media bots to smart home devices such as door locks.

The toolkit also has a trivia game to help engage people in their cyber knowledge. Shepley said CIS purposely kept the toolkit to around 10 pages.

“This toolkit not only is great for the individual but for those that need to understand the best steps to implement, to secure their data and be able to execute the activities of whatever their organization may be,” said Shepley on Federal Monthly Insights — Cybersecurity Month. “So basically, the toolkit is a how-to guide, whether it is … hosting events or participating on social media. We’re going to have a very active social media campaign during October, and we’d love organizations, individuals, frankly anybody to participate, as we talk about our overarching theme, as well as some of the topics that we’ll be talking about throughout October.”

Last year had more than 400 registered events, she said. This year’s campaign theme is “Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.” Several field personnel including security advisers, law enforcement and other representatives will be available around the country to share information on National Cybersecurity Awareness month.

“So it’s going to be light on threat and more about prevention and proactive activities. We, of course, utilize everything that [the National Institute of Standards and Technology] has published, relative to the cybersecurity framework and the other activities,” Shepley said on Federal Drive with Tom Temin. “But really, a lot of the guide is about ‘#becybersmart,’ which is going to be the hashtag that we’re going to be using throughout October.”

Christopher Krebs
Christopher, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

At a national summit last month, CISA Director Chris Krebs told government and industry attendees that with a newly appointed national security adviser in the White House, Robert O’Brien, “it’s a great time to have him on board.” Right now, a top cybersecurity priority for DHS is the safety and integrity of the 2020 elections.

Some have called on O’Brien to reestablish the role of national cyber coordinator in the White House, but Krebs said that in his view, standing up CISA is a sign of agency coordination among the cybersecurity arena.

“But I am really excited to work with the national security adviser,” Krebs said. “[I] haven’t had a chance to meet with him yet, obviously. But everything that I’ve heard from, from good friends that know him well, is that he takes cybersecurity seriously. So I think we have a great opportunity here to continue upping our game.”

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