Protecting Ourselves from Cyber Threats
By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)
Cyberattacks are becoming more and more common, as the internet has become such an integral part of our daily lives. We are putting more of our personal information online than ever before, whether it’s when we do our online banking, make a purchase, pay bills or something as simple as sharing photos on social media. It is important that we take steps to protect ourselves from cyberattacks.
The month of October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is using this time to encourage Americans to be mindful of the risks that can happen when we’re not safe online. When our personal information is compromised, it can result in drained bank accounts, stolen identities, fraudulent credit card charges and more.
There are a few tips we can use to protect ourselves from a costly and worrisome cyberattack. First, it’s important to use strong passwords and avoid using the same password for multiple websites and online accounts. Make sure to lock your smartphone and computer when you’re not using them. If you receive a suspicious email, do not open any links or attachments that it may contain and delete the message immediately. You should also be cautious if you get a phone call or email from someone claiming to be a friend, family member or IRS representative asking for you to wire them money. Lastly, avoid accessing online banking accounts or other sensitive accounts on public Wi-Fi or from a public computer, as hackers can more easily access your information when you’re on a public network that is not secure.
While we should always focus on protecting our personal information online, it is also important for the federal government to take steps to avoid cyberattacks. As chairman of the Cybersecurity Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, one of my goals has been to increase and improve the defensive and offensive cyber capabilities of the Defense Department. However, our cyber concerns extend beyond our armed forces. For example, as we saw during the 2016 election, our adversaries will not shy away from using cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns to try to influence our public discourse or impact our elections.
This summer, I had the opportunity to attend the grand opening of the new Beacom Institute of Technology at Dakota State University (DSU) in Madison, where the university announced the construction of a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) on campus. DSU is one of the nation’s leaders in cybersecurity education, and the SCIF will bring additional opportunities for South Dakota students looking at a career in cybersecurity. Once they graduate, students will be able to work directly on national security and cybersecurity issues here at home.
Cybersecurity is an issue that all Americans need to be concerned with, as we continue to put more of our personal information on the internet. During Cybersecurity Awareness Month, I encourage all South Dakotans to review their online security measures and make adjustments if necessary to stay safe online.