Each year several million Americans are impacted by identity theft, so October has been declared "Cyber Security Awareness Month" in Pennsylvania as part of a nationwide effort to promote online security. Locking your computer, creating strong passwords, and not opening suspicious emails are small things people can do to stop viruses and hinder identity theft.
Dan Egan, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Office of Administration, said the awareness effort is about reminding people of the importance of protecting themselves online. "We do so many things through the internet these days. We check our bank accounts, we pay our bills, we buy things with our credit cards, we communicate in all kinds of new ways through social media," said Egan. "And so it's just important that everyone understands the risks that are out there, and take the steps to protect themselves, and make sure they're using the technology in a safe and responsible way."
Egan said state government has a tight information security program that includes policies to develop secure online applications, monitoring and automated incident response capabilities, security policies for data encryption, and yearly employee training and security drills. He said that since the state has access to so many citizens' personal information, it is the state's responsibility to keep them safe.
He said cyber security shouldn't be just a state priority, though. "Last year 73 million Americans each received more than 50 phishing emails," said Egan. "That's over three and a half billion attempts to try to infect a computer, or steal personal information, or something like that. With so many different threats, and different tactics, and different ways of going about it, it's certainly important that everybody's aware of what's happening out there."
Egan said people should also be protecting their smartphones and tablets by not letting them out of their sight in public and locking them when not being used. He also said to never leave passwords lying around where people can see them.