By David Tackett
Chief Information Officer
WV Secretary of State’s Office
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a time when government, industry and academia, among others, highlight best practices and resources for “keeping Americans safe and secure online.” As phone and email scams become more of an everyday occurrence, and identity theft only seems to be on the rise, it is imperative that we take proactive steps to enhance cybersecurity at home as well as in the workplace.
This year’s theme is “Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.” It serves to remind us that we as individuals play an important part in online safety and protecting our digital identities. By following these directives, you can protect yourself from becoming the next victim.
First, consider your digital profile. With constant connection via our cell phones, computers and more, this growing array of internet-based devices present opportunities for cyber threats which can compromise your most important information, including your address, phone number, bank account numbers and more.
Ensuring you have a secure password is only the first step. If multi-factor authentication (MFA), is available for your email, banking, social media or other sensitive services that requires a login, enable and utilize it to ensure extra security.
As cell phones become more sophisticated with each upgrade, now is a good time to explore your privacy settings on each device. Be aware that your phone could be running suspicious applications in the background or using default permissions which you might not have realized you approved. These apps have the ability to gather your personal information, putting your identity and privacy at risk.
Understanding and maintaining your device is also a key to staying safe. “If you connect, you must protect.” Keeping your devices and programs up to date will ensure you’re defended against the latest threats. Before connecting to any public wireless hotspot, confirm that the network is legitimate with appropriate safeguards, and resist the urge to connect external hard drives or removable USB drives unless you have software that scans for viruses and malware.
Our devices are now key to everyday communication, but ensure you only engage with sources you trust. Be wary of emails or phone calls which require you to “act immediately,” and of clicking on links that could compromise your account or device. Hover over links to verify authenticity and ensure that URLs begin with “https.” The “s” indicates encryption is enabled to protect users’ information.
Recently, I was asked “When it comes to cybersecurity, what is the most important resource you have in the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office?” Without hesitation, I responded, “Our People.”
Secretary of State Mac Warner often reiterates another message related to this month’s theme - “Protect. Detect. Correct.” “Protect” the assets and services for which we are responsible. “Detect” any potential threats to or attacks against those assets and services. And be prepared to “Correct” any disruptions to those assets or in those services as a result of an attack.
The WV Secretary of State’s Office now leads the nation in election cybersecurity. We work closely with all 55 County Clerks, our legislature and State and Federal partners to develop best practices in training, technology and safeguards to protect our election systems and databases.
While security around elections continues to remain at the forefront, the Secretary of State’s Office is responsible for safeguarding the data, systems and processes in a myriad of business, government and public services. Of course, technology assists in the effort to protect these resources, but even as software and hardware become more sophisticated, automated and intelligent, they still require people to design, build and run them. Perhaps, more importantly, humans are also needed to improve them.
Remember, your data is important at home and at work, so be sure to Own IT, Secure IT and Protect IT.
Visit our office online at www.wvsos.gov
David Tackett is the Chief Information Officer for the WV Secretary of State’s Office.He is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College and a resident of Kanawha County.
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