Programs such as National Cyber Security Awareness Month (US) and Safer Internet Day (global) are designed to heighten international awareness for both companies and consumers. But who benefits? Individuals? Small and medium businesses (SMBs)? Enterprises?
Over the course of the past five years, National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) has evolved from providing education to youth and bifurcated into providing information for youth AND pushing out corporate solutions for the SMB/Enterprise by those companies operating in the security space. And while NCSAM is largely a US-centric event, Safer Internet Day, with its roots in the EU, is a global event and remains a bit more true to purpose—keeping the Internet safe for children and youth.
In October 2013, there was tremendous participation by almost every company that has a toe in Internet security. All were pushing data out into the social networks utilizing the hashtag #NCSAM. A review of the Twitter stream saw some of the behemoths of the security industry putting their marketing pieces next to input from academia and government, while individual users were sharing basic tips (check out the Twitter archive of #NCSAM).
The original intent of the National Cyber Security Alliance was to keep the individual user (customer or employee) safe online; however, it seems that the goulash effect is a good thing as it provides a 360 degree view of the security marketplace.
On February 11, 2014, Safer Internet Day (SID) arrived. The run-up to the event displayed a global interest in the day and the uniform messaging, in keeping with its intent at origin, to "promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially among children and young people across the world." The organizers, InSafe of the UK, set up global subgroups in support of SID2014 and encouraged direct participation of individuals of all age groups, but most especially the youth. The social media feeds show more uniformity, with the Twitter hashtag SID2014 showing focus on the individual. While one could posit that keeping safe on the Internet is important for everyone, not just children, all would agree that educating our youth is a good place to start. SID2014 carries the motto, "Let's create a better Internet together." A noble cause indeed, and let us hope the sentiment extends beyond February.
The opportunity for those in the security industry to bring their voice to the table via active participation in national and international events such as NSCAM and SID is far too often thought of as a means for companies to hook themselves to the event by grabbing some marketplace spin and then disappearing. The Marketing/Communications teams can check the box—we participated—but does the participation for 31 days of NCSAM or the one day of SID bring value to the targeted audience or the individual, especially when those individuals are the youth of today, their parents, the employee, or a senior citizen? Those entities which invest in the long term, beyond just one day or one month, consistently provide input and guidance as the Internet security landscape changes. We all know the landscape changes daily—look at the number of breaches, compromises, and malware hitting individual users. Think if companies used these events as recaps for the previous year's efforts—those efforts to raise the tide of individual security awareness. Sharing preferred practices and solutions in an agnostic manner is what is required, not just during the NCSAM and SID, but every day, each and every year.