'Very much the first line of defense': NC observes Cybersecurity Awareness Month – The Daily Tar Heel

Gov. Roy Cooper proclaimed October as Cybersecurity Awareness Month. The month is dedicated to promoting public awareness of internet safety and the threat cybercrime can pose to users’ identities, data and privacy.
Since the first National Cybersecurity Awareness Month in 2004, federal and state governments have launched annual themes to promote different aspects of internet safety. 
This year’s theme, “See Yourself in Cyber,” focuses on the personal steps internet users can take to protect themselves online by providing resources and information to the public.
Saba Eskandarian, a computer science assistant professor at UNC, said cybercrime has become more common over recent years. This has brought cybersecurity greater attention as a concern, he said.
“It’s come to the forefront of people’s attention, and much more than it was in the past,” Eskandarian said.
As cybercrime has become more common and well-known, stories of data breaches and other lapses in internet safety have become common, he said.
Filipp Beldiushkin, a first-year at UNC, said he experienced cybercrime firsthand when his email account was compromised.
“It strengthened my awareness of this issue of cybersecurity, and I’ve tried to be more patient after that with passwords, with data,” Beldiushkin said.
Several small changes can be made to secure personal information, according to Kelly Gardner, a spokesperson for the communications office at the North Carolina Department of Information Technology.
“Making smart decisions and practicing good cybersecurity habits can go a long way,” Gardner said in an email.
To protect identity and personal information, Gardner said it is important to use different, secure passwords for each online account. He also said using different passwords can limit damage caused by a password leak by preventing a hacker from using one password to access multiple accounts.
Eskandarian said hacking a single account can provide a cybercriminal an access point to infiltrate larger institutions like schools and workplaces.
“Now, they’re no longer a cybercriminal in some other country,” Eskandarian said. “Now, they can be you and you have access to many more things than they do.” 
One of the best defenses against account breaches, when available, is two-factor authentication, Eskandarian said. This authentication verifies each log-in by sending a message to an authorized email account or phone number. 
The defense protects against account hacking by ensuring that the account owner confirms each and every login attempt, so even leaked passwords will not enable a cybercriminal to log into your account.
According to a press release from Oct. 4, state officials said public awareness of cybersecurity is particularly important in the wake of natural disasters like Tropical Storm Ian, which can leave people vulnerable to online scams. 
Frequently claiming to be charity organizations or disaster aid funds, some scammers seek to take advantage of those in crisis or those trying to help by stealing financial information with fraudulent emails or texts.
In the face of rising cybercrime, National Cybersecurity Awareness Month seeks to empower internet users to protect their own data by promoting risk-reduction strategies.
“Everyone who uses the internet — whether it’s a mobile device, laptop, home assistant or smartwatch — has a role to play in cybersecurity threat prevention,” Gardner said. “We are very much the first line of defense when it comes to helping prevent cybercrime.”
@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com
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