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National Cyber Security Awareness Month kicks off

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The National Cyber Security Alliance announced it was kicking off National Cyber Security Awareness Month on Monday, the same day the White House acknowledged an attempt to infiltrate its computer system.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month is a coordinated national effort focusing on the need for improved online safety and security.

According to the Associated Press, a White House official said the attack targeted an unclassified network. He said the attack was identified and that the system was isolated to prevent spread. He said there was no indication that any data was removed.

The official, who was not authorized to speak on the record about the attack, said there was no attempted breach of classified systems. The official described such "spear phishing" attacks as "not infrequent."

Last year, Google Inc. blamed computer hackers in China for a phishing effort against Gmail accounts of several hundred people, including senior U.S. government officials and military personnel.

The White House would not say whether the recent attack was linked to China.

NCSA has partnered with McAfee on a new survey to examine Americans' online safety posture and the findings reveal a substantial disconnect between their respective online security perceptions and their actual practices while on the Internet.

According to the survey:

• Fifty-nine percent of Americans say their job is dependent on a safe and secure Internet and 78 percent say losing Internet access for 48 consecutive hours would be disruptive with 33 percent saying it would be extremely disruptive. Ninety-percent say they do not feel completely safe from viruses, malware and hackers while on the Internet.

• Twenty-six percent received notification by a business, online service provider or organization that their personally identifiable information (e.g. password, credit card number, email address, etc.) was lost or compromised because of a data breach.

"The Internet is central to our daily lives and our economy and this new survey shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe keeping this system safe and secure is vital," said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. "The Internet is a shared resource for so many of our daily activities which is why protecting it is a shared responsibility.

"The threat to the safety of Americans online is growing every day and as the survey shows the fear of Americans has also grown to 90 percent," said Gary Davis, vice president of global consumer marketing at McAfee. "It is our responsibility to make sure that consumers are aware of these growing threats so they can be best prepared to defend themselves against these hidden criminals."

The survey of 1,000 adult Internet users found disparities between online safety perceptions and actual practices in important areas such as smartphone security and password protection measures. Key findings show:

• Smartphone Internet use continues to grow, yet security protections lag. Nearly half of Americans (49 percent) use their smartphones to access the Internet, which is a 6 percent increase from the 2011 NCSA/McAfee Online Safety Survey that found 44 percent of adults accessed the Internet using a smartphone. Sixty-four percent feel their smartphones are safe from hackers yet – pointing to a strong disconnect – nearly the same amount (58 percent) of current smartphone users have never backed up their devices by storing the information or data elsewhere. Sixty-four percent say they have never installed security software or apps to protect against viruses or malware.

• Parents are most worried about children discovering adult sexual content/pornography (39 percent) followed by having contact with strangers when they are online (27 percent). Ten percent are worried about bullying or harassment from peers.  Additionally, as youth identity theft is growing as an issue, nine percent of parents are concerned about their children's identity being put at risk.

• Sixty-one percent of Americans feel safest accessing the Internet using a laptop or desktop with 9 percent feeling safest using a smartphone and 3 percent using a tablet. (22 percent have only ever accessed the Internet using a desktop/laptop.) Many Americans think that connecting to an unsecured wireless network puts them most at risk to cybercrime or loss of personal information (30 percent), followed by not having any or enough security software (22 percent).

• Twenty-three percent say they changed the password on a major online account without being prompted to do so by the service provider in the past six months (23 percent) and 14 percent in the last year, 13 percent in last week, and 23 percent in the past month. Seventeen percent have never changed their passwords. Forty-nine percent of social media users say they changed their passwords once or more this past year, with six percent changing passwords weekly. At the same time, 42 percent have never changed their social media passwords. Sixty-one percent of respondents changed their online banking account passwords at least once a year while 28 percent have never changed their passwords.

JZ Analytics conducted the online safety survey. The survey firm, founded by John Zogby, surveyed 1,000 adults nationwide from August 31, 2012 to September 3, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 3.2 percentage points and margins of error are higher in sub-groups. The full study and a fact sheet are available at:

The National Cyber Security Awareness Month Web Portal is available at and a calendar of NCSAM events can be found at

NCSAM supporters can get the latest news and updates on Facebook at and on Twitter at @StaySafeOnline. The official Twitter hashtag of NCSAM is #ncsam.

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