Stressing security training

NIST Special Publication 800-50: "Building an Information Technology Security Awareness and Training Program"

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Teaching basic computer security has become an essential part of training government employees, and agency officials who neglect security education will regret it, said David Jordan, chief information security officer for Arlington County, Va.

Employees who are aware of the pitfalls of using computers connected to the Internet are "the most powerful weapons against cyberthreats that you can have," he told Federal Computer Week during a Nov. 29 interview.

That's why Jordan said he spends 15 to 20 minutes with all new county government employees talking to them about cybersecurity. And it's why he sends computer and network security information to employees on a biweekly basis via the county's electronic newsletter. For the latter, he solicits the help of editors in the county's communications office.

Information security officers, he said, should cultivate good relationships with communications experts who can help them teach employees how to avoid being victims of computer worms and viruses. Editors can take a security officer's message and craft it to suit to the audience, Jordan said.

Company officials who sell computer security products also recognize the role user awareness plays in protecting computers and networks from malicious software code. Security policies and firewalls alone won't provide adequate protection, said Kathy Coe, regional director of educational services at Symantec, which makes antivirus and other security software.

Last year, for example, officials at a federal financial institution tested employees' adherence to the agency's computer security policy against opening e-mail attachments from unknown sources. About half of the employees failed the test, Coe said.

Against agency policy, they opened an e-mail attachment that purported to show a traffic snarl in Washington, D.C., after a North Carolina tobacco farmer drove his tractor into a shallow pond on the National Mall.

Without consistent and continuous user awareness training, Coe said, all of us are easy prey.

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