National Cyber Security Month: Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT…Respond to IT?

Jessica Carter

Oct 01 2019

It’s officially October and while I’m sad to trade in my shorts for hoodies, I am excited for football season, Pumpkin Spice Lattes and of course, the start of Cyber Security Month!

For those unaware of the reality of our current cyber situation in the U.S., here’s a hint: it’s not great. And it appears to be getting worse. In 2018, more than 2 million cyber incidents occurred resulting in over $45 billion in losses, according to a report by the Internet Society’s Online Trust Alliance® (OTA®). As the threat continues, the damages resulting from cyber attacks are estimated to reach a staggering $6 trillion by 2021.

This underscores a growing concern by all for increased cyber security measures. Enter cyber security awareness month. Lead by the Department of Homeland Security, the month of October has been designated as the official month for organizations and individuals to come together to help make cyber security a high priority for all.

There’s an entire month for that?

For most of our clients in Information Security and Digital Forensics, every month (every day really) is focused on cyber security. But to create heightened awareness and importance around the situation for the rest of the nation, October has been recognized as National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) in the U.S. This effort was brought to life in 2004, through a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance, to ensure that every individual stays safe and secure online.

In 2011, the EU launched their own campaign for October, the European Cyber Security Month (ECSM) with the same goals in mind: to raise awareness, change behavior and provide resources related to cyber security. With multiple countries now uniting to observe October as Cyber Security Awareness Month, the Global Campaign to Raise Cybersecurity Awareness was begun to bring everyone together under a common goal to understand cyber-related threats and share best practices worldwide.

In the U.S., the theme for this year’s campaign is Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT. These three pillars represent the key messages to consider when thinking about the proactive role individuals and organizations should all take to enhance cyber security. The key word there being proactive.

At AccessData, though, we’d propose the addition of a fourth pillar—Respond to IT—to encapsulate the importance of proactive incident response plans as an equally critical component of cyber security.

Anymore, it’s no longer a matter of if but when an organization or government entity will suffer from an attack. While emphasis is placed on preventative measures, and rightfully so, the reality is not all attacks can be prevented. Having a well thought out incident response plan in place in advance of a cyber incident is just as critical, and will enable your organization to more effectively respond to and manage an attack.

Despite the benefits of a proactive approach to IR, a 2019 survey by the Ponemon Institute found that 77 percent of organizations do not have a cyber security IR plan applied across the enterprise and, among those organizations that do have a plan in place, more than half admit they do not test their plans regularly.

A comprehensive incident response plan should be customized to each unique organizational structure and industry, clearly identify the various stakeholders involved—both internal and external professionals—and outline key responsibilities of all stakeholders in the event of a breach. Furthermore, the plan needs to be practiced through tabletop exercise and simulations to help identify areas for improvement and can even help uncover ways in which organizations can improve their “cyber hygiene” to further protect against attacks.

In observance of Cyber Security Month, we’ll be sharing numerous resources for those that might be struggling with where to begin when it comes to incident response and post-cyber attack investigations. Starting next week, AccessData will host a webinar series featuring some of our incident response “greatest hits” from the last year along with a few new webinar sessions providing best practices for responding to and investigating a breach. You can view these all month on our BrightTALK Channel.

For more information and resources, visit and bookmark our dedicated Cyber Security Month landing page at

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