The History of Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Posted by Denmark Francisco
September 01, 2021

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It’s almost here: the month program owners like you have been waiting for … Cybersecurity Awareness Month

We know you’ve probably prepared a few resources to educate your team long before the big launch in October. After all, it is one of the most exciting months of the year for cybersecurity professionals everywhere.

It’s that special time to remind your team that we’re all in this together and that your employees are truly your greatest assets in strengthening your security, not your greatest weaknesses.

But in order to get your team onboard with a month full of cybersecurity awareness education, it helps to know the history of the national movement that inspired it all. Here’s how it all began—and how the national holiday gained the recognition it holds today:

 

The History of How Cybersecurity Awareness Month Began

As technology continued to advance in the early 2000s, the Internet was rapidly growing, and more and more cyber threats began to arise. Government and industry leaders everywhere recognized a need for better online security education and spearheaded a movement towards better cybersecurity awareness.

Because cyber threats came in many forms, it was evident that a single day devoted to cybersecurity education was not enough. Thus, Cybersecurity Awareness Month (previously known as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month) launched in October of 2004 as part of a joint initiative between the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 

The purpose of the effort was to raise awareness of cyber threats and boost preparedness for organizations, businesses, and everyday citizens. 

 

Cybersecurity Awareness Month’s Annual Themes

“When Cybersecurity Awareness Month first began,” NCSA explained, “the awareness efforts centered around advice like updating your antivirus software twice a year to mirror similar efforts around changing batteries in smoke alarms during daylight saving time.”

For over a decade between 2009-2018, the month’s message focused on “Our Shared Responsibility,” highlighting each person’s duty to safeguard digital data and assets. In 2010, they also began pushing a new “STOP. THINK. CONNECT.” campaign, encouraging participants to pause and consider their actions before connecting online.

But as threats continued to evolve, so too did the focus of the yearly initiative. It wasn’t long before the national campaign adopted a unique monthly theme, centered around one core, timely security topic. In recent years, the subject matter has expanded to include more modern security best practices, such as multi-factor authentication, data backup, and protection against phishing attacks. 

 

Cybersecurity Awareness Month Today

Now in 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a mass increase in the number of remote workers and widened cybercriminal’s options. More than ever, employees play a large role in maintaining a company’s security posture at home. It’s fitting then that the Cybersecurity Awareness theme for 2021 is “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.” 

This year’s theme is all about empowerment and ownership and emphasizes that anyone can be cyber smart in order to protect themselves and their teams. 

Over four weeks in October, the NCSA will dedicate its outreach efforts to a unique subject:

  • Week 1: Be Cyber Smart. The first week introduces best practices and basic cyber hygiene to keep data and private information safe from leaks or cybercriminals.
  • Week 2: Fight the Phish. Phishing attacks have grown increasingly prevalent, so this week reviews tips on spotting potential phishing threats.
  • Week 3: Explore. Experience. Share. This third week is Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week, during which those who are interested can get up to speed on the rapidly growing field of cybersecurity.
  • Week 4: Cybersecurity First. The final week is all about how to prioritize cybersafety. From businesses that must develop cybersecurity training and onboarding for employees to individuals setting up new devices or answering emails, we all need to keep cybersecurity at the forefront of our minds.  

2021 Cybersecurity Awareness Content for Program Owners 

Because of the focus on making a united effort, Cybersecurity Awareness Month is arguably one of the most important times of the year to educate users everywhere about new and evolving cybersecurity best practices.

That said, we know the month’s weekly security topics can be overwhelming to cover on top of your day-to-day workload. That’s why our team at Living Security created a unique asset for program owners: Campaign in a Box

Campaign in a Box contains pre-written, themed content to share with your team—taking the legwork out of your security campaign content. We even created a box specifically focused on Cybersecurity Awareness Month, in addition to 11 other monthly themes to educate your users on different security topics all year long. 

Request Campaign in a Box today.

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