Napolitano: Practicing Good Cyber Habits a ‘Public Education Issue’ – Like Seat Belt Campaign in 1960s

November 5, 2012 - 2:01 PM
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Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Speaking at a discussion on cybersecurity, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that convincing everyone to practice good cyber habits is a “public education issue” like the seat belt campaign in the 1960s.

“We want everyone to practice good cyber habits, and that’s a public education issue. It’s like in the 1960s - the seat belt campaign. They didn’t even use to make cars with seat belts,” she said.

During the Washington Post Live forum, the secretary was asked, “So the first Internet transmission was in 1969, right? And so we hear that even now in kindergarten, they’re telling kids to be more password-protected and more wary.

“Do you see that a lot of the sloppiness in human errors that happen are older folks who kind of get with it late in the game? I mean, do you see that this is a particularly vulnerable period and things will get better, that the so-called human factor that’s causing so many breeches will get narrower?” the moderator asked.

“In the kind of interconnected Internet world that we have, everybody is a link, so anybody who is online is a potential avenue, and to the greatest extent, we want everyone to practice good cyber habits, and that’s a public education issue,” Napolitano said. “It’s like in the 1960s - the seat belt campaign. They didn’t even use to make cars with seat belts.

At first car manufacturers thought no one would want to put on a seat belt, the secretary said, but now it is second nature.

“That was a big issue, cause the manufacturer said no one’s gonna want to put on a seat belt, and they began the buckle up for safety and all of that, and now you wouldn’t really ever think of getting in your vehicle without putting on your seat belt, and it’s just a reflex. You do it,” Napolitano said.

“It would be great, and a great goal for us to have that same kind of action and reflexive capability where cyber is concerned,” she added.

DHS has launched a campaign called, “Stop, Think, Connect,” Napolitano said, “which is designed to ask people before they download an email from a source they’ve never seen before, for example, they really think through ‘What could that be?’ and protect themselves.”

The “Stop, Think, Connect” campaign has been targeted to “younger people,” the secretary said.

“You mentioned kindergartners, but these young people, yes, as they grow up, this is just a part of their life. They don’t see the computer as something between them and life – it is life. It’s fully integrated. It’s been fully integrated since they were two,” Napolitano said.

“So their reflexive actions are going to be very different than some of us older folks. So we … just gotta keep sending that same message,” she added.