Cyber fitness is everyone's responsibility today

by Military Health System Communications Office
Stripes Okinawa

Taking care of our physical self and personal hygiene – working out, eating well, and washing up – is a normal part of our daily lives. If we put the same effort into making sure we’re ‘in shape’ in the cyber world, we could make a big difference in protecting our personal information.

Not too long ago, cybersecurity was considered someone else’s problem. But it’s not a technological problem, it’s a human knowledge problem and a personal responsibility, Servio Medina, acting chief of Cyber Security Division Policy Branch at Defense Health Agency, said.

“[That notion] reflected a time that is behind us [and] needs to be behind us,” Medina said, speaking at the Defense Health IT Symposium in Orlando, Florida, on July 25. “We have to acknowledge that a change in one context can impact another context.”

While some people receive cyber awareness training as part of their job, not all 9.4 million beneficiaries in the Military Health System do. Cybersecurity goes beyond the workplace and into homes, impacting everything from toys to video game chat rooms to email, and it’s important for people of all ages to be ‘cyberfit,’ as Medina says. The Health and Human Services department refers to this concept as cyber hygiene, and defines it as an individual’s health, or security, when conducting all activities online.

Without the right training or knowledge, anyone can accidentally fall victim to cybersecurity problems, or make personal information vulnerable.

“We do want to empower [people] to not unwittingly compromise their own information and their own wellbeing,” said Medina. Part of the Military Health System’s role in taking care of families is helping them understand how to protect their online presence, he said.

Being cyberfit includes recognizing risky behavior, such as clicking a link in a suspicious email. Simple acts, like walking away from an unlocked computer or not having a passcode on a phone, accounts for more than half of all data breaches according to the Society of Human Resource Professionals. Additional cyberfit tips include:

• Avoid phishing. Don’t open e-mails or links from an unknown source, and don’t reply to requests for personal or medical information.

•Being social online also means you’re global. Think carefully before posting anything on the internet, and remember social media and websites can be tracked and hacked.

•Use caution when using public Wi-Fi. While it’s convenient, it’s usually unsecure.

Password protecting devices and applications, using reliable malware software, avoiding unsecure networks to share personal information, and avoiding public Wi-Fi networks can help protect personal information. In addition, beneficiaries can protect their health information by using a secure messaging portal through a provider to share health information and carefully checking health care statements to avoid fraud or scams.

Medina said people sometimes need nudges, such as pop-up notifications indicating the security certificate of a website and caution to proceed at risk.

“It takes repeated training, it takes nudges, it takes effective training, but it takes more than that, too,” said Medina, believing it takes three months to change a habit, six months to change a behavior, and a year to change a lifestyle.

“It takes us to recognize that most incidents trace back to some sort of behavior,” said Medina, referring to a 2015 Department of Defense memo stated roughly 80 percent of cybersecurity breakdowns can be traced back to humans – even after training, said Medina. Most of these cases come down to ignorance, willful neglect, poor judgement, ineffective policy, or criminal intent, he said.

Cybersecurity can dramatically impact the family wellbeing, and when the wellbeing of the family is affected, the readiness of service members and their ability to complete their mission can also be impacted, Medina said.

“[I]t wasn’t too long ago that cybersecurity was someone else’s problem,” said Medina. “We can’t have that mindset anymore. Cybersecurity is really, in a way, everybody’s responsibility today.”

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