NEW YORK – Since its launch in October 2004, October has been designated Cybersecurity Awareness Month, previously known as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, as part of a joint initiative between the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) devoted to cybersecurity awareness and education.
Now in its 20th year, Governor Kathy Hochul responded to that call by announcing a first-ever comprehensive statewide cybersecurity strategy to protect digital assets and uphold the privacy of New Yorkers.
“Through this designation, we are shining a bright light on the need for our citizens and businesses to be vigilant in the face of cyber threats that have become more numerous and more sophisticated,” Hochul said. “By establishing our state’s first-ever, comprehensive statewide cybersecurity strategy, my administration remains committed to creating a formidable statewide defense against cyber threats and protecting the critical services that our residents, businesses and local governments rely on every day.”
Cybersecurity Awareness Month this year will focus on four key behaviors:
- Enabling multi-factor authentication;
- Using strong passphrases;
- Updating software; and,
- Recognizing and reporting phishing.
Jackie Bray, the Commissioner of the New York Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, urges residents to “remain vigilant against cyber criminals.” She reminds everyone to take simple steps to keep themselves and their information safe. “Remember — think before you click, use strong passphrases, keep your antivirus software current, and enable multi-factor authentication,” she advised.
While Cybersecurity is essential for all organizations, it can be challenging for small businesses that may need more dedicated staff or resources. The State Department of Financial Services said it has partnered with the non-profit Global Cyber Alliance (GCA) to provide a free cybersecurity toolkit to small businesses. The toolkit includes information on identifying hardware and software, updating defenses against cyber threats, strengthening passphrases, enabling multi-factor authentication, backing up and recovering data, and protecting email systems. The free cybersecurity toolkit for small businesses and the DFS-developed sample cybersecurity policies can be found on the DFS website.
New York State Superintendent of Financial Services Adrienne A. Harris said, “Cybersecurity is vital to protect our nation’s most critical infrastructure. The Department of Financial Services sets and maintains the national benchmark of cybersecurity standards and safeguards in financial services to protect businesses and consumers from increasingly sophisticated cyber criminals.””
Meanwhile, New York State Chief Information Security Officer Chris DeSain encouraged everyone to be a cyber warrior.” Whether you are a state employee, operate a business, or are one of millions of hardworking New Yorkers across our state, we need you and join us in this fight,” DeSain said.
The New York State Office of Information Technology Services (ITS) is also coordinating a statewide cybersecurity poster contest for kindergarten through 12th grade, a timely opportunity for teachers to focus on keeping children safe online in a fun and informative way.
Submissions are due Dec. 15, 2023. New York State winners will be featured on the ITS website and entered into the national contest sponsored by the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC). Additionally, the agency provides free resources to the public, including the Cybersecurity Awareness Toolkit, which includes cybersecurity-themed posters, calendars, brochures, and other content that can be downloaded and shared to help promote and reinforce cyber safety themes in practical, informative, and entertaining ways.
–-With Jay Domingo/PDM