As much as 80 percent of the cyber threats the American public faces today are a direct result of poor or non-existent computer hygiene, according to a new report by AFCEA International, a non-profit association serving the military, government, industry and academia.
A recent report by AFCEA International’s Cyber Committee explained that these poor habits degrade national resiliency and infrastructure by eroding public confidence in the government’s ability to defend them. In short, the lack of awareness at home is directly aiding cybercriminals and state sponsored cyber-attacks in being more effective, costly, and overall more harmful to American interests.
“Understanding the ’80 percent challenge’ and the underlying premise behind it—that we can boost our defenses by routinely implementing computer hygiene—can increase our defense game significantly,” the authors suggest. “If we better educate individuals, and if we forge stronger partnerships between citizens and the industry and government sectors, we can raise the cost of attacks to the adversary.”
The report, authored by Committee members Robert Dix and Chris Folk, calls on government agencies who interact extensively with the public to lead efforts to strengthen cyber hygiene. They suggest leading a national awareness and education campaign to identify cybersecurity challenges and leverage existing outreach and communication mechanisms to educate the public.
The authors suggested two primary methods to better educate users: promoting routine computer hygiene and improving cyber defenses by forming stronger partnerships between the public, industry, and government institutions. The researchers term this the “80 percent solution to the 80 percent problem.”
"Currently, there is a gap, primarily because users simply don’t understand what the cyber threats are, how their information can be compromised or what to do. We can and must change that," Dix and Folk said.
At the forefront of this initiative is the HOME Campaign, which is designed to provide individuals with the tools to enhance their own cybersecurity. HOME—or hygiene, ownership, multipliers and ecosystem—encapsulate concepts that enable all citizens to learn and employ safe computing habits.
“The time and attention of the nation on this topic needs to be addressed today,” Dix and Folk said. “Cybersecurity ideas and issues must be demystified. … Users must understand their role in basic computer hygiene. … Users must ask for more secure products. The government can help facilitate and make sure there are stronger policies and higher standards for security, but all citizens must drive these actions.”