October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month which is an annual campaign to raise awareness about cybersecurity. We live in a world that is more connected than ever before. The Internet touches almost all aspects of everyone’s daily life, whether we realize it or not. National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) is designed to engage and educate public and private sector partners through events and initiatives to raise awareness about cybersecurity, provide them with tools and resources needed to stay safe online, and increase the resiliency of the Nation in the event of a cyber incident.
Gov. Tom Wolf proclaimed October 2016 Cybersecurity Awareness Month in Pennsylvania. “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recognizes that it has a vital role in identifying, protecting and responding to cyber threats that may have a significant impact on our individual and collective security and privacy,” said Gov. Wolf in a proclamation.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC or Commission) recently highlighted National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and the collaborative work being done to protect Pennsylvania’s critical infrastructure, while also reminding consumers to take efforts to protect their personal information.
PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown in a recent statement said “Cybersecurity affects all of us – every industry, every country, every agency and every consumer.”
“The PUC works with all of our regulated utilities on an all-hazards approach to security – both physical and cybersecurity,” said Chairman Brown in video comments. “Our work with utilities is aimed at the security of utility data and the security of utility systems”
The PUC has published a Cybersecurity Best Practices for Small and Medium Pennsylvania Utilities which is an excellent resource for businesses of all types and individuals and is available on the Commission’s website and outlines for utilities ways to prevent identity or property theft; how to manage vendors and contractors who may have access to a company’s data; what to know about anti-virus software, firewalls and network infrastructure; how to protect physical assets, such as a computer in a remote location or a misplaced employee device; how to respond to a cyber-attack and preserve forensic information after the fact; how to report incidents; the potential benefits of engaging a law firm in advance of a breach; and a list of federal cyber incident resources.
While work with the utilities continues, Brown stressed that it is equally important for consumers to take steps to increase their personal protection against cybercrime, including:
- Do not click on links or pop-ups, or open attachments, from strangers;
- Always enter a URL by hand instead of following links if you are unsure of the sender;
- Do not respond to online requests for Personally Identifiable Information (PII); most organizations – banks, universities, companies, etc. – do not ask for your personal information over the Internet;
- Limit who you are sharing information with by reviewing the privacy settings on your social media accounts;
- Trust your gut; if you think an offer is too good to be true, then it probably is;
- Set strong passwords, change them regularly, and don’t share them with anyone;
- Keep your operating system, browser, and other critical software optimized by installing updates; and
- Maintain an open dialogue with your friends, family, colleagues and community about Internet safety.