Aloha everyone! 2020 has been one intense, crazy, and completely unpredictable year, and the events that occurred will continue to affect all of us in one way or another for many years to come.

October brings us another event, but this time it’s a good one—the 17th annual National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. We know there are many distractions going on right now—COVID-19 continues, the elections, the economy, and just dealing with life—are all more than enough to keep us busy! Who has time for cybersecurity?

Well, think about the following: Did you know that after COVID was declared a pandemic, 88% of the organizations worldwide made it either mandatory OR encouraged employees to do remote work? This pandemic has re-written a lot of the “norms” for remote work. This statistic doesn’t look scary, but it should – look at these sobering numbers:

  • Cyber-attacks were most prevalent against healthcare and financial industries
  • Email scams related to COVID-19 surged 667% in March alone
  • Also in March, the search term “how to remove a virus” rose by 42%
  • Users are 3x more likely to click on pandemic related phishing scams
  • 530,000 zoom accounts were sold on the Dark Web

The Internet was a dangerous place (non-secure) BEFORE COVID-19. Since then, the entire global community had a large-scale push to deploy systems, software, processes & procedures, and even new working paradigms (remote work). It’s probably safe to say that we are less secure now; consider that this surge really means that more and more information (of all kinds) is being created, passed, processed, disseminated, and in some cases stored, in a non-centralized environment (like those remote work computers) – defenders have a larger environment to keep secure. But how many users were trained how to work in this new macrocosm securely? How many defenders were trained to defend this expanded environment?

Let’s also consider the state of our new “global” information system. Many of us use it as the sole means to retrieve and disseminate news and information about the world we live in – how much has this changed? A quick search in google on “COVID-19” gives us 6.3 billion results. Hmm. might take a while to getthrough all that information.When we add “Hawaii” to thesearch – it narrowed down to amere 620,000,000 results;searching for “COVID-19” and“Kaneohe”, brought it to a reasonable (??) 12,100,000 results. That should take care of the weekend reading right?

So, just trying to get reliable, accurate, local news about what was going on and how daily life would be affected, requires a large amount of intellectual “sorting” – and that’s just for local news – what about news on other cities, states, or even countries? How much of this information out there is fake? Dangerous? With all that confusion out there, how easy would it be for bad actors to take advantage (fake news, phishing scams, etc.)? It’s easy to allow frustration and confusion to make you forget about information security and protecting yourself and your family.

The main goal of National Cybersecurity Month is to raise awareness of the importance of cybersecurity – and to remind you that YOU play a vital role in protecting your part of cyberspace, whether you are using it for work (remote work) or in your personal life (or both). The theme this year is “Do Your Part #BeCyberSmart.” And they are emphasizing “If You Connect It, Protect It”. Protecting information is the goal, and even small steps on your part can help to achieve that.

In the next few weeks, the ICS staff will be sharing articles from both CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) and from our own Windward Community College ICS students, starting with articles by students in our current ICS 184 Introduction to Networking class. There is a lot of good information in there to help keep you safe; please use these resources, share them with friends and family and make this month—and every month—your cybersecurity awareness month.

—ICS faculty & Staff

Michael Kato, ICS assistant professor, katomich@hawaii.edu
Laura Sue, ICS assistant professor, laurasue@hawaii.edu
John Oshiro, ICS lecturer, oshiroje@hawaii.edu
Jodie Yim, ʻAo Kahi Project coordinator, jodieyim@hawaii.edu