Congress on Friday declared October "National Cyber Security Awareness Month" as a not-for-profit group composed of government agencies and big-name technology firms geared up for a long-term campaign to ease growing consumer fears of the Internet.
"That's what we're trying to prevent, the erosion of confidence in the Internet," said Ron Teixeira, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). "Yes, it's dangerous, but there are steps you can take."
Several recent studies have concluded that e-commerce in particular, Internet use in general, suffer from the constant news of identity theft, security breaches, and criminalization of the Web.
"It's not any different than going into a city from the suburbs," argued Teixeira, whose organization counts the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Trade Commission, Microsoft, Symantec, eBay, and Cisco among its members. "People understand that when they drive into town they need to park underneath a street light, use the Club, or turn on their car alarm. There are different behaviors on the Internet as well, that will help you protect yourself."
Although the NCSA is making its big push in October -- as evidenced by the Congressional resolution and similar declarations in 30 states -- Teixeira said that the organization will be running educational campaigns throughout the year.
"We've now developed a sustained year-long campaign that will include a mini-campaign on online shopping later this year and one on New Years' resolutions in January," said Teixeira.
For October's month-long effort, the NCSA has revamped its StaySafeOnline Web site, is running a new television public service announcement dubbed "Stop. Think. Click," and will host awareness programs at more than 30 colleges and universities.
"User education will always play a role, no matter how devious phishers or other criminals become," said Teixeira. "It takes a combination of changing consumer behaviors and technology to fight the problem."
NCSA has been a more prominent player of late; it was one of the first organizations to warn consumers of developing Internet scams related to the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, and provided users with tips on how to avoid fraudsters.
Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Science Committee, introduced the resolution on Friday that named October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month.
"Progress is being made on cyber security, but we as a nation still have a long way to go," said Boehlert in a statement. "The connectedness [sic] of the Internet means that each person contributes to the nation's cyber security and cyber vulnerability. I applaud the associations, companies, organizations, and agencies involved in National Cyber Security Awareness Month for their efforts to help all of us to become more responsible, safer computer users."