This month, we’re profiling the global cybersecurity education and awareness campaign STOP. THINK. CONNECT.
STOP. THINK. CONNECT. was co-founded in 2009 by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), and a coalition of 25 private companies and seven federal agencies. The campaign was founded in order to develop a cohesive, unified message around online safety that was empowering and easy to understand. This cohesive message was especially important as around the time of the campaign’s launch, President Obama was undergoing his cyberspace policy review and determined a need for a national campaign for cybersecurity education and awareness, similar to how the Smokey the Bear campaign developed a message for fire safety and prevention. After extensive research and a major messaging convention, the campaign officially launched in October 2010, and President Obama declared STOP. THINK. CONNECT. the national campaign for cybersecurity education and awareness. Today, the campaign continues to be led by the NCSA and APWG, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security leading the federal engagement of the campaign.
To learn more about the campaign and how it aims to help empower people around the country to better protect themselves online, we spoke with Michael Kaiser, Executive Director of NCSA.
What are the goals of STOP.THINK.CONNECT?
The STOP. THINK. CONNECT. campaign is designed to encourage people to take security precautions, understand the consequences of their actions and behaviors and enjoy the benefits of the Internet. The messaging follows many classic public safety messages that can be universally applied, like “look both ways before crossing,” “stop, drop and roll” and “stop, look and listen.” The three facets of the message are:
STOP: Before you use the Internet, take time to understand the risks and learn how to spot potential problems.
THINK: Take a moment to be certain the path ahead is clear. Watch for warning signs and consider how your actions online could impact your safety or your family’s.
CONNECT: Enjoy the Internet with greater confidence, knowing you’ve taken the right steps to safeguard yourself and your computer.
By following the principles of STOP. THINK. CONNECT., digital citizens can make cybersecurity second nature.
What are some of the most frequently asked questions that you get from your audience about protecting themselves online?
We often get questions from people wanting to know how to distinguish a scam from a legitimate message, website or link. Additionally, parents come to us with questions about how to protect their children from cyberbullying and keep them safe while they engage with social media and online gaming. Additionally, we receive questions about hacked accounts and preventing and recovering from cybercrime. The STOP. THINK. CONNECT. campaign provides videos, tip sheets, posters and other resources to educate people on these and other cybersecurity, privacy and online safety topics so that they can keep themselves and their loved ones safer and more secure online.
What do you consider to be the greatest cybersecurity threats right now to consumers?
Over the past couple of years, we have heard of countless data breaches at companies and organizations of all sizes, and many consumers are worried about their information being stolen and misused. It’s important for people to understand both how they can protect their information in order to help prevent cyber attacks and how they can recover from cybercrime.
What three things should every consumer do right now to protect themselves online?
- Protect core accounts with multi-factor or two-step authentication. This feature requires a second step, such as a text message to your phone, the swipe of a finger or use of a physical token, in addition to a password. Two-factor authentication makes it significantly harder for accounts to be accessed by unauthorized parties.
- Clean (and keep clean) all machines. Keep your software up to date on all of your Internet-connected devices to stay safe from viruses, malware and other online threats. This includes all mobile devices.
- When in doubt, throw it out. Links in emails, social media posts and online ads are often how cybercriminals compromise your devices. If a message or link looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or, if appropriate, mark as junk email.
You also recently launched the Two Steps Ahead campaign as part of STOP.THINK.CONNECT. What is the purpose of this campaign?
Consumers and businesses can improve their security greatly by just adding a small step to the account login process. Enabling two-factor authentication on an account gives you an added layer of protection against having your account compromised. The goal of the Two Steps Ahead campaign is to educate audiences around the country about the importance of enabling two-factor authentication and how simple it can be. We provide reference materials and “how to” videos on our website that complement the Turn It On campaign.
What’s next for STOP.THINK.CONNECT? How can people get involved?
This October, we will be celebrating the five-year anniversary of the launch of the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. campaign. To date more than 250 organizations have started working with the messaging, and government agencies and NGOs in other countries are translating and adopting the messages as well. We are excited to continue to grow the campaign and build partnerships with hundreds of nonprofits, businesses of all sizes, educational institutions, governments and other organizations around the world. You can get involved in the campaign by visiting stopthinkconnect.org, following us on Facebook and Twitter and downloading and sharing our free materials with your friends, colleagues and family and in the community. Additionally, your organization can get formally involved with the campaign by signing on as a STOP. THINK. CONNECT. partner. Becoming a partner organization is free and allows you to co-brand with us by customizing your resources with the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. logo and messaging or adapting our existing resources to your audience and adding your branding and information.
To learn more about becoming a STOP. THINK. CONNECT. partner, visit https://www.stopthinkconnect.org/get-involved/partner-program/.