Napolitano asks public's help with cybersecurity

DHS leader says securing computer networks is a responsibility shared by everyday people

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has gone online to urge private persons to help bolster the country’s cybersecurity.

During a speech broadcast on the Homeland Security Department’s Web site Oct. 20, Napolitano described computer security as a major scientific and technical challenge with great economic and national security implications. She said everyday people – not just the government – share the responsibility for cybersecurity.

“It’s an opportunity for you as an individual to personally to contribute to our national security,” Napolitano said. “Securing your home computer helps you and your family – it also helps your nation in some very important ways.”

Napolitano said people should:

  • Install and activate firewalls for their computers and Internet connection.
  • Ensure that anti-virus and anti-spyware is installed and up-to-date.
  • Check computer settings to make sure operating systems and applications are automatically patched.
  • Avoid suspect Web sites, downloading suspicious documents or attachments, or opening e-mail messages from unknown persons.
  • Perform regular back ups.
  • Use strong passwords.
  • Educate children.

“We can’t treat this as a government issue or a corporate issue,” Napolitano said. “Protection of digital networks is no longer just a cyber or an [information technology] issue – for people affected it’s a human issue and an economic issue.”

Napolitano’s address was part of DHS’ efforts for National Cybersecurity Awareness Month that has the theme of “Our Shared Responsibility.”

“I truly believe that when we read our history books in future years we’ll see that what we faced was a technical, a scientific challenge on par with some of the greatest challenges of the last century,” Napolitano said.

Although Napolitano said that private persons share the responsibility for cybersecurity, she also said the government should lead those efforts, and was doing so. DHS is responsible for protecting the federal government’s civilian .gov domain as well working with industry on cybersecurity efforts.

Earlier this month, DHS got authority to add up to 1,000 additional cybersecurity professionals. “Not only does DHS want you, your nation needs you,” Napolitano said.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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