Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger might strike fear in the hearts of horror fanatics this time of year, but the real villains are much more elusive and certainly more persistent. Bad actors, hackers, those who exploit your credit union and your members’ data are the real monsters, and they’re present every single day of the year.
With this being the spookiest time of year, it makes sense that October is also National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. In the risk world, it’s definitely a big deal because cybersecurity is growing exponentially – especially since we’re now operating in a more mobile society with so many remote connections.
But even in 2004, when National Cybersecurity Awareness Month got its start, the governing bodies of cybersecurity were looking ahead to the future. They predicted an increasing need for cybersecurity and education around the subject so that businesses and consumers, alike, could better recognize and understand not just how to implement proactive cybersecurity strategies, but also how cybercriminals operate.
So, together, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) joined forces to bring us this celebratory month which we still observe 18 years later – perhaps even in a greater capacity than ever before.
“See Yourself in Cyber”: The Human Element
In 2022, specifically, the theme of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is “See Yourself in Cyber.” It’s meant to shine a light on the human element of cybersecurity and the role people play in protecting their online presence as well as any cyber assets. According to CISA, “this year’s campaign theme demonstrates that while cybersecurity may seem like a complex subject, ultimately, it’s really all about people.”
But what does the human element of cybersecurity entail? Is it those of us who work in cybersecurity in a professional sense? Is it your average Joe paying his bills online? Is it your small business member who runs an e-commerce store on the internet? It’s all of us…every single person who interacts with other entities in a cyber capacity.
For credit unions, the 2022 Cybersecurity Awareness Month theme calls upon your IT and information security professionals all the way to tellers and loan officers. It touches pretty much everyone who works within your institution because credit unions operate a majority (if not all) functions electronically, online or in the cloud. Your members, whether they’re individuals or business members, also pertain to your credit union. Cybersecurity touches every level of your organization, and there are so many places attackers could weasel their way into your systems and networks.
The best thing to do to address how people view and actively participate in cybersecurity is through education. Learning about cyber attacks and what they may look like (phishing attempts, malicious advertisements, password hacking, etc.), as well as cybercriminal tactics, is a good place to start for employees and members alike. It’s also something your tech-forward staff should continuously pursue. There’s a reason this month is called National Cybersecurity Awareness month – awareness is the best thing any of us can be when it comes to cybersecurity and protecting our information.
Join the Cybersecurity Month Celebrations
As financial institutions, credit unions are major players in the cyber realm, and our participation in National Cybersecurity Month is a wonderful learning opportunity. Engage your internal staff, your board and your members in some of the month’s celebrations by putting cybersecurity front and center. Here are just a few ideas:
- Host a webinar or an in-person seminar about cybersecurity
- Provide literature about cybersecurity and how to actively protect our cyber identities
- Create a blog post or newsletter article highlighting cybersecurity and National Cybersecurity Awareness Month
- Create a social media campaign around cybersecurity tips
You can even become a Cybersecurity Awareness Month partner with CISA. There are plenty of tools and resources available to you to help promote the message of cybersecurity awareness. All you have to do is ask!
Spooky season, who? Don’t let horror movie villains and grotesque decorations fool you – some of the scariest things most of us will ever encounter are cybercriminals looking to steal our data for whatever their malicious purposes may be. Pass on the popcorn and celebrate National Cybersecurity Awareness Month instead. What we learn this month can be beneficial to credit unions as we continue to expand our operations within the cyberspace.
John Cuneo is information security director for Vizo Financial. With over 10 years of information technology experience, Mr. Cuneo is well-versed in conducting information system risk assessments, providing security awareness training and analyzing security controls and reports.