DHS Staging Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign

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The Department of Homeland Security has embarked on a nationwide campaign to promote safe computing habits amid rising concerns over Web-borne threats.

The "Stop. Think. Connect." campaign, launched in October, which for the past seven years has been designated national cybersecurity awareness month, focuses on broad-based public education about the evolving nature of online security, offering a host of resources for parents and educators available for download at the campaign's website.

"We all share a responsibility to prevent cyber attacks and increase our nation's resilience to cyber threats," DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement announcing the campaign.

The DHS campaign builds on one of the key pillars of the cybersecurity strategy the White House outlined in 2009, calling for vigorous and ongoing public education efforts to supplement a sweeping overhaul of federal policy and bureaucratic structures to address the threats to the country's digital infrastructure, a transition that remains very much a work in progress.

As part of the campaign, DHS is partnering with the National Centers of Academic Excellence to develop and host a series of events around the country that aim to bring together businesses, government and community groups to raise awareness and promote online safety.

"Through this initiative, Americans can learn about and become more aware of risks in cyberspace, and be empowered to make choices that contribute to our overall security," President Obama said of the new campaign in a proclamation on national cybersecurity awareness month.

Last October, Napolitano marked the month in remarks at an event in Washington, where she announced DHS' plans to hire 1,000 cybersecurity experts over the coming three years, part of a government-wide effort to bulk up personnel with expertise in combating online threats.

But public education and personnel increases are only two facets of the federal government's efforts to protect public and private digital systems -- and are among the least controversial.

At the policy level, several competing Senate proposals for a cybersecurity overhaul are under debate among members of the many committees that can claim a semblance of jurisdiction over cybersecurity, which observers note is nearly every one. When Congress reconvenes after the November elections for a lame-duck session, there is only a slim chance that cybersecurity will be back on the table, either as a standalone bill, or, more likely, as an amendment attached to the Defense authorization bill awaiting debate and passage.

Among the key points of controversy are whether the civilian DHS or a military agency should take the lead on securing nonmilitary networks, and the extent of the authorities that should be at the president's disposal in the event of an emergency.

Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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