Americans and many around the world are living increasingly digital lives. According to one recent study, there will be 6.4 billion internet-connected devices in use this year — a 30 percent increase from 2015. By 2020, that number is projected to jump to more than 20 billion. This means there will be more than two connected devices for every individual on the planet.
While this growing connectivity brings many benefits, it also creates new opportunities for sophisticated criminals and foreign entities to intercept personal information, disrupt the delivery of essential services, and compromise our national security and critical infrastructure.
Today, cyberattacks are among the most serious threats facing the United States and our citizens. The Department of Justice’s Internet Crime Complaint Center recorded 269,422 cybersecurity-related complaints in its 2014 report, an increase of more than 1,500 percent since 2000. With vulnerabilities always present in advancing technology, it is important to take cybersecurity seriously, whether it be at home, at work, or on the go.
October was National Cyber Security Awareness Month and out of that we offer some guidelines to help you ensure you have the resources needed to stay safer and more secure online.
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▪ Avoid sharing your full name, address and other personal information online. Frequently check a website’s privacy options to ensure you have enabled the highest level of privacy because options get updated or changed completely as the website regularly evolves.
▪ Links in emails, tweets, posts and online advertisements are often used by cybercriminals to compromise your computer or mobile device. If it looks suspicious, delete it, even if you know the source. If appropriate, mark the message as “junk email” so future messages from the sender do not end up in your inbox.
▪ Setting passwords that are long, unique and hard to guess is one of the most important things you can do. Changing passwords regularly and using different passwords for different accounts goes a long way to protect your online information.
▪ Ask for protection beyond passwords. Many websites now offer additional ways for you to verify your identity before you conduct business on their sites, such as two-factor authentication.
▪ In order to prevent theft and unauthorized access, use a passcode to lock your mobile device and always lock it when it is not in use.
We know firsthand from our work in the U.S. Senate and the Department of Homeland Security that individuals, private-sector companies, states, and the federal government all share the responsibility of confronting the sophisticated threat of cyberattacks. We are proud to say that solutions to some of today’s security challenges are being developed at our national laboratories, including the Idaho National Laboratory (INL).
Today, INL is the nation’s leading nuclear energy laboratory as well as a world leader in securing our cybernetworks. The valuable work done at INL lays the groundwork for fortifying our nation’s electric grid and wireless networks and mitigating emerging cybersecurity threats.
Ultimately, reducing our nation’s exposure to cyber vulnerabilities requires an all-hands-on-deck effort. We ask you to continue working with us to make our internet more secure. Our daily life depends on a stable and resilient cyberspace.
U.S. Sen. Jim Risch serves on both the Senate Intelligence and Energy committees. Suzanne Spaulding is Under Secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security.