Have you taken the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month quiz?

Cybersecurity Jeopardy-style quiz“I’ll take Cyber Stats for 500.”

And the answer is: What is the estimated global cost of cybercrime by the end of 2019?

(Read on for the answer.)

Ah, October! It’s that wonderful time of year when grownups can return to their childhood for a little while by dressing up and wearing masks (except inside bank lobbies). And, if you live in the northern temperate zone, the air turns crisp, trees adorn themselves in gold and brown, and marketers introduce pumpkin-spice versions of every product from lattes and Twinkies to—and I promise I’m not making this up—dog treats and smartphone cases. 

And—lest we forget—October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM). 

The more cynical may wonder what good it does to designate an official cybersecurity awareness month. The answer is that it does plenty of good—given sufficient participation to pull off the awareness part. 

Raising public awareness of good cybersecurity practices while preserving trust in financial institutions needn’t be as tricky a balancing act as it sounds. The objective is not to scare the daylights out of clients, but to give them healthy respect for the risk of being hacked, along with the tools for lessening the risk. Outlining a bank’s steps to keep clients’ funds and data safe can build confidence; and outlining steps clients can take to better protect themselves provides a valuable customer service.

No financial institution large or small need start from scratch. This year, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies, under the Division of Homeland Security, has provided a wealth of free, downloadable tools in its NCSAM 2019 Toolkit:

The NCSAM 2019 Toolkit is a comprehensive guide to make it easy for you and your organization, regardless of size or industry, to engage and promote the core theme and critical messages leading up to and throughout October. Use the guide and the resources below to help you engage your stakeholders and promote positive, lasting cybersecurity habits.

The Toolkit features graphics, key messages, public messaging, a speakers bureau, and my personal favorite: a Jeopardy-style cybersecurity trivia game in PowerPoint format with internal cross-links. 

I consider myself pretty cyber savvy, but I admit I learned a thing or two going through the NCSAM quiz questions. In fact, the quiz provided the question that opens this post: What is the estimated global cost of cybercrime by the end of 2019? I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. The answer is a mere $2,000,000,000,000.00 U.S.

Here’s another: How many unfilled cybersecurity jobs are there in the United States alone? And another: Globally, how many unfilled cybersecurity positions are there estimated to be by 2022? The answers are, respectively 310,000and 1.8 Million.

Which may explain why here in my home state, I noticed, the University of Utah is advertising a course that promises to make students into cybersecurity professionals in 24 weeks. Doubtless they are not the only school doing as much. The demand for cybersecurity professionals certainly exists and, “thanks” to criminals, will not be going away anytime soon.

The game and other NCSAM tools can be useful for teaching the extent and methods of cyber attacks, as well as best practices for protecting oneself from them. 

Granted, the precautionary steps are not new: beware public wifi, keep passwords complex, change passwords often, use a password manager, and remember that easily recalled passwords are also easily guessed. Yet as often as the guidelines have been repeated, they will nonetheless be news to a large chunk of the public. As for those who have heard them before, many could do with a review. Not to mention a kick in the pants to implement them. 

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