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Cyber Security Awareness Month

Is Cybersecurity any different to Cyber Safety?

As the current reach of the internet spans from the North Pole all the way to Tasmania, it’s safe to say that the world is becoming increasingly digitized. With everything being just a click away, we must ask ourselves if we are completely aware of all the risks behind that single click.

Since 2004, October has been recognized as Cybersecurity Awareness Month. But what is cybersecurity and how is it different from cyber safety?

Cybersecurity ensures infrastructure-level protection from cyber attacks, i.e., making sure your device is free from malware or ensuring your system is not susceptible to data leaks, whereas cyber safety involves online platforms and end-users understanding and protecting themselves from potential online harm. At the platform level, it could mean ensuring that end users of the online platform are not susceptible to online harm via enforcement of community guidelines and compliance. At the end-user level, it involves taking measures such as not sharing personal information online or being able to spot fraudulent schemes.

As social media platforms continue to expand their reach, the risks exposed to the users are also multiplying. What initially started as a means of communication between friends or relatives has expanded into a platform to meet new people or to track the latest trends. In the most recent use case, social media platforms are also being used as sales and marketing channels by various brands, e.g., Instagram Shopping. With such a diverse range of use cases, it becomes difficult for the platforms themselves to constantly monitor and to detect possible threat vectors for their users. Moreover, it also exposes the platform’s infrastructure to possible attacks from hackers or fraudsters.

Thus, it’s extremely important for the platforms to be cyber secure by not being susceptible to data leaks or potential attacks from hackers and for the users to be cyber safe by making sure they’re not exposing themselves to bad-faith actors and reporting cases of cyberbullying to the respective authorities, be it bullying, harassment or sexual extortion.

We can say that while cybersecurity has a broader focus, i.e., hardware, software, and data protection. Cyber safety mainly involves protection of online users, i.e., cyber safety is a subset of cybersecurity.

The original idea behind the Cybersecurity Awareness Month was to provide ample resources to Americans in order to stay safe and secure online by increasing the collaborative efforts between government and industry, thus leading to a pioneering partnership between the public and the private sector, i.e., the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Cyber Security Alliance.

What initially started as an effort to ensure people are updating their antivirus software is now celebrated by several small and medium-sized businesses, corporations, and educational institutions, to ensure increased proactivity and accountability to be safe online.

Keeping up with this year’s theme of #BeCyberSmart for Cybersecurity Awareness Month, here are some tips to be cyber safe while also being cyber secure:

📧 Avoid opening emails that either contain links to external websites or those that ask for personal information. During the past months, an increasing number of people have fallen prey to fraudulent scams, for instance the impersonation of the founder of MoneySavingExpert — Martin Lewis. These links serve as a means to infect your system with malware or lead users to shady websites asking them to share personal information. In order to avoid this, make sure you have a strong anti-virus software in place.

🔑 Never reveal your password. To make them foolproof, make sure they’re strong and unique and not easily “hackable”.

🚨 If you come across anything suspicious, report it.

Summing up, as the internet continues to be the lifeline of this generation, it’s extremely important to ensure that you’re not only being safe but also secure. Platforms and end-users need to each do their part to ensure online safety.

Or you never know where that single click might lead you.

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