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Majority of U.S. Small Businesses Say Digital Literacy Essential Skillset for New Hires



WASHINGTON and MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.  – More than half of America’s small businesses (53 percent) say it is important for new hires to posses a strong proficiency in basic computer skills as it relates to the online safety and security of their business, according to a new survey of 1,015 U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) by the National Cyber Security Alliance and Symantec. (The full survey is available at: http://www.staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/resources/)

The survey – which also shows 87 percent of small businesses have one or more employees who use the Internet for daily operations – has been released in conjunction with National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

In addition to the month-long awareness initiative, NCSA is working with the National Cybersecurity Education Council (NCEC) to formally institute and promote cyber security education programs in K-12 schools, higher education, and career and technical education environments nationwide. This joint effort has included an extensive strategic planning process to identify areas where consensus can be achieved to begin developing a cyber-capable workforce and digital citizenry that is strong and savvy in cybersecurity.

Integrating cyber education into the national curriculum is important to America’s workforce. The survey shows SMBs take into account one’s digital literacy skills when making hiring decisions. Over half of SMBs surveyed believe a good online safety posture is essential for new hires in the following ways:

  • Ethical Use of Technology: Three-fifths (59 percent) of SMBs say knowing the proper use of email, social networks, and engagement online is essential (38 percent) or important (21 percent) to the safety and security of their business. 
  • Understanding Privacy Protection Measures: Fifty-six percent of SMBs say it is essential (41 percent) or important (15 percent) for new hires to understand protecting the privacy of information. 
  • Internet Security Practices: Fifty-eight percent of SMBs say it is essential (38 percent) or important (20 percent) for new hires to know Internet security practices like password protection measures, identifying safe websites, avoiding phishing and other scams.
  • Knowing the Importance of Protecting Intellectual PropertyFifty-five percent of SMBs say it is essential (40 percent) or important (15 percent) for new hires to have basic skills and knowledge around how to safeguard intellectual property.

Aside from bringing on new hires who posses basic online safety skills, U.S. small businesses could be operating under the assumption that their existing employees know how to stay safe online. Seventy-percent of SMB owners/operators say they do not provide online safety training for employees.

“Small businesses are expressing a strong need for employees with basic skills and knowledge about how to use technology safely, securely, ethically and productively,” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. “Given the role of small businesses in our economy, it’s so important to integrate cybersecurity training into all education levels – from K-life. SMBs should also provide ongoing training to employees to be sure skills are reinforced and new skills are developed as the technology changes.”  

“Small businesses are a driving force of our economy, and new technologies and online services are becoming an everyday part of how SMBs run their businesses,” said Brian Burch, vice president of Americas Marketing for SMB, Symantec. “According to Symantec’s research, SMBs have become a key target for cybercriminals and that trend is bound to continue. Small business owners and employees must do a better job not only becoming better educated on cybersecurity, but also better at implementing technologies to protect themselves and the information that fuels their businesses.”  
SMBs should ensure that both current employees and new hires thoroughly understand ways to increase online safety and security. These simple tips can help aid that process:

  • Enforce strong password policies: Passwords with eight characters or more and use of a combination of letters, numbers and symbols (e.g., # $ % ! ?) will help protect  data. 
  • Encrypt confidential information: Implement encryption technologies on desktops, laptops and removable media to protect confidential information from unauthorized access, providing strong security for intellectual property, customer and partner data.
  • Use a reliable security solution: Today’s solutions do more than just prevent viruses and spam; they scan files regularly for unusual changes in file size, programs that match known malware, suspicious e-mail attachments and other warning signs. It’s the most important step to protect information.
  • Stay up to date: A security solution is only as good as the frequency with which it is updated. New viruses, worms, Trojan horses and other malware are born daily, and variations of them can slip by software that is not current.


For additional information on how to help employees stay safe online, check out the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Campaign at http://stopthinkconnect.org/tips-and-advice/.  NCSAM supporters can get the latest news and updates on Facebook at www.facebook.com/staysafeonline and on Twitter at @StaySafeOnline. The official Twitter hashtag of NCSAM is #ncsam. The National Cyber Security Awareness Month Web Portal is also available at: http://www.staysafeonline.org/ncsam/and a calendar of additional NCSAM events can be found at:http://staysafeonline.org/ncsam/events

Survey Methodology
JZ Analytics conducted the small business survey from September 27–29, 2012. The survey firm, founded by John Zogby, surveyed 1,015 U.S. small businesses (less than 250 employees) across the United States. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points and margins of error are higher in sub-groups. The full study and a fact sheet are available at: http://www.staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/resources/.

About The National Cyber Security Alliance
The National Cyber Security Alliance is a non-profit organization. Through collaboration with the government, corporate, non-profit and academic sectors, the mission of the NCSA is to educate and empower a digital citizenry to use the Internet securely and safely protecting themselves and the technology they use and the digital assets we all share. NCSA board members include: ADP, AT&T, Bank of America, EMC Corporation, ESET, Facebook, Google, Intel, McAfee, Microsoft, PayPal, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Symantec, Trend Micro, Verizon and Visa. Visit www.staysafeonline.org for more information and join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/staysafeonline

About Symantec 
Symantec protects the world’s information, and is a global leader in security, backup and availability solutions. Our innovative products and services protect people and information in any environment – from the smallest mobile device, to the enterprise data center, to cloud-based systems. Our world-renowned expertise in protecting data, identities and interactions gives our customers confidence in a connected world. More information is available at www.symantec.com or by connecting with Symantec at: go.symantec.com/socialmedia.

About  STOP. THINK. CONNECT.
The campaign was developed by the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Messaging Convention, a public-private partnership established in 2009 and led by The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) and National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) to develop and support a national cybersecurity awareness campaign.  The Department of Homeland Security provides the Federal Government's leadership for the campaign. Industry, government, non-profits and education institutions participate in STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Learn how to get involved at the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/STOPTHINKCONNECT, on Twitter at @STOPTHNKCONNECT, and the campaign website at www.stopthinkconnect.org.

 






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