National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) was launched by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in October 2004 as a broad effort to help all Americans stay safer and more secure online.
When NCSAM first began, the awareness efforts centered around advice like updating your antivirus software twice a year to mirror similar efforts around changing batteries in smoke alarms during daylight saving time.
Since the combined efforts of NCSA and DHS have been taking place, the month has grown in reach and participation. Operated in many respects as a grassroots campaign, the month’s effort has grown to include the participation of a multitude of industry participants that engage their customers, employees and the general public in awareness, as well college campuses, nonprofits and other groups.
Since 2009, the month’s theme has been “Our Shared Responsibility.” The theme reflects the role that we all – from large enterprises to individual computer users – have in securing the digital assets in their control.
In 2009, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano launched NCSAM at an event in Washington, D.C., becoming the highest-ranking government official to participate in the month’s activities. In subsequent years, leading administration officials from DHS, the White House and other agencies have regularly participated in events across the United States.
In 2010, the kickoff of National Cyber Security Awareness Month also included the launch of the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. campaign. President Obama’s proclamation for the month includes STOP. THINK. CONNECT. as the national cybersecurity education and awareness message.
Also in 2010, NCSA began moving the launch of the month to sites around the country. The month has been launched in Seattle and Bellevue, WA, Ypsilanti, MI, Omaha, NE, Boston, MA, Nashville, TN, and Washington, D.C.
Starting in 2011, NCSA and DHS developed the concept of weekly themes during the month. This idea was based on feedback from stakeholders that the many aspects of cybersecurity should be better articulated, making it easier for other groups to align with specific themes. Themes have included education, cybercrime, law enforcement, mobility, critical infrastructure and small and medium-sized businesses.
The reach of NCSA has grown exponentially since 2004 and continues to grow each year. For example, NCSAM 2017’s media footprint grew by 44 percent over NCSAM 2016.
The collaboration of NCSA and DHS on National Cyber Security Awareness Month is one of the many successful public-private partnerships that are so critical to cybersecurity.
A Snapshot of NCSAM 2017 Results
NCSAM 2017 generated unmatched results across industry, diverse organizations, government, the military and academia. NCSAM 2017’s primary goal was to raise extensive awareness and empower everyone online to be safer, more secure and better able to protect their personal information by taking simple, actionable steps. The month’s theme – “Our Shared Responsibility” – emphasized the role each individual plays in promoting a more trusted internet and was reinforced consistently throughout October and beyond. Below is a quick look at several of NCSAM’s most striking achievements:
- NCSAM’s Cultural Adoption: There was tremendous acceptance and sharing of key messages and advice. Whether it was linking NCSAM and October to pumpkin spice, showcasing the overarching “Our Shared Responsibility” theme, the widespread use of NCSA-created materials or the promotion of our partners’ programs, the organic growth was unprecedented.
- Strong Partner Support: Partner engagement strengthened signi cantly as exempli ed by press releases referring to NCSAM that were distributed during September through November timeframe. These partner-generated releases increased by 88% – from 43 in 2016 to 81 in 2017.
- Government Engagement: There was continued, robust support by various government organizations, like the FBI, which showcased October as an “important reminder of the need to take steps to protect yourself and your family when using the Internet.” Both NCSA and DHS were positioned as NCSAM leads, and images of “Our Shared Responsibility” infographic were used.
- Champion Growth: 1,050 organizations registered as Champions. This is an increase of 21% over last year’s 870. The individual Champions program also grew, with a total of 603 supporters in comparison to 432 in 2016 – an increase of 40%.
- Record Twitter Reach: The Week 1 Twitter chat reached an all-time high potential reach for NCSA of 3,116,365.
- Social Successes: Social media engagement grew, with the #CyberAware hashtag used 81,256 times in October 2017 (a 16% increase over last year). Additionally, 23,958 Twitter handles tweeted the #CyberAware hashtag during the month – a 13% increase over the number of people who tweeted with the NCSAM hashtag in 2016. The hashtag potentially reached 84,447,531 (a 24% increase over last year) and generated 599,818,668 potential impressions (a 22% increase over last year).
- Increased Livestream Views: NCSA continues to focus on expanding reach by implementing Facebook Live into key events and initiatives. The total number of views for October 2017 to date is 20,745 – a 46% increase over October 2016 (14,137 views). NCSA attributes this increase to better promotion of upcoming broadcasts and the cybersecurity careers series during Weeks 4 and 5.
- Stay Safe Online In the News: NCSAM messaging continued to gain traction. “Stay Safe Online” was featured in hundreds of stories, and the overall reach experienced a 121% increase in articles and 130% growth in unique viewers.
- Overall Media Growth: Expanding its media footprint, NCSAM 2017 generated 2.4 billion+ or 2,400,149,313 unique views – an increase of 44% compared to last year – from print/digital stories and press releases that speci cally mentioned NCSAM by name.
- Thousands of NCSAM-focused Stories: 4,361 articles covered NCSAM and its related activities, events and announcements – representing a 68% increase from 2016. Articles showcasing NCSAM appeared in a variety of to-tier publications.
- Key Message Coverage: “Stay Safe Online,” “Keep a Clean Machine” and “Our Shared Responsibility” were featured extensively.
- “Stay Safe Online” was included in 1,754 articles, representing a year-over-year increase of 121% (793 articles in 2016.
- “Keep a Clean Machine”: 119 articles, an increase of 89% (63 articles in 2016)
- “Our Shared Responsibility”: 77 articles, an increase of 126% (34 articles in 2016)