Ever been “hacked,” or know anybody who’s been the victim of computer or account hacking?

Did you know October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month? This month should be a sobering reminder that every individual, business and government entity in Hawaii and nationally is always at threat of having sensitive information compromised by online hackers and criminals. That means me. That means you.

Cybersecurity threats are an ever-present, everyday occurrence, but, unfortunately, users of the internet, social media and online communication rarely take note until a major data breach is reported in the news media. As the old adage goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” so please read on to see how we can best protect ourselves and our loved ones.

How Big Of A Threat Is This?

A study by Juniper Research, a leading digital technology analyst firm, reported that 12 billion records were breached in 2018 to steal personal data like Social Security numbers and credit card information. And even though security experts and companies are working hard every day to protect private information from being stolen online, Juniper Research estimates 33 billion records will be breached in 2023.

A data breach is just one form of cybertheft. Criminals use sneaky software programs to try and steal money from bank accounts, unleash viruses to corrupt computer systems, and lure unsuspecting people with “phishing” for identity theft. Just look in your spam folder…chances are very good you received phishing emails this week.

Sadly, most people are unaware they have been a victim of a cyberattack until the damage is already done. And cybercriminals target all age groups. Older, less tech savvy citizens, are especially vulnerable but even younger generations whose lives are dominated by social media can fall prey due to their high volume of online activity.

That’s Worrisome, So What’s The Good News?

Beyond the role of the everyday citizens, what’s our state doing to harden Hawaii’s cybersecurity and infrastructure?

Here in Hawaii, positive, forward-thinking steps are being made at the state government level. Transform Hawaii Government is a strong advocate of the state’s efforts to defend its people through updating and advancing cutting-edge information technology.

THG’s a big supporter of Hawaii “Information Technology Strategic Plan” unveiled this year by the Office of Enterprise Technology Services. THG applauds ETS for leading the state in bringing our cybersafety into the 21st century. The plan articulates seven strategic priorities for the vision of Hawaii’s information technology future. Expanding the statewide cybersecurity strategy is a big “plank” in the seven priority platform.

Statewide Cybersecurity Strategy In Brief

Among the desired outcomes of this strategy are:

  • safeguarding state and constituent information;
  • reducing vulnerability to external threats; and
  • minimizing the storage of sensitive data.

Expected benefits of the strategy are:

  • increasing the public’s trust in IT systems;
  • building confidence that state government can protect citizens’ confidential information;
  • reducing and eliminating data breaches; and
  • saving money for taxpayers.

Chief Information Security Officer’s Mission

We believe cybersecurity is one of the most developed priorities of the state government’s IT strategic plan with a dedicated leader at the helm since December 2016. Chief Information Security Officer Vincent Hoang took this new office created for these purposes.

CISO Hoang rightly asserts, “Cybersecurity is a team effort. We’re collaborating within state and local government, along with private sector partners to improve education, information sharing and resilience to cybersecurity issues.”

Remember that cybersecurity also starts at home.

And, the governor’s office deserves credit for taking an assertive leadership role on the issue of cybersecurity and the efforts being taken to protect public records and private information from being compromised. Residents can feel confident that state government is taking the necessary actions to prevent a cyberattack from damaging the state’s IT systems, and more can always be done.

But in addition to the Hawaii government’s efforts, and the work of THG, remember that cybersecurity also starts at home. Some basic and easy strategies to protect your systems always include:

  • keeping antivirus and anti-spyware software updated on every computer;
  • using a firewall for your internet connection;
  • downloading and installing software updates for your systems as they become available;
  • securing your Wi-Fi networks; and
  • regularly changing your passwords.

P.T. Barnum, the legendary showman of the 1900s, is credited with declaring, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Don’t let these criminals make us “suckers.” Knowledge, combined with vigilance, is key to stopping hackers and keeping private information safe and secure online.

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