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Online Computer Security Awareness Course

By Cheryl Ann Seaman and Kevin Haney

Technology is great — until something goes wrong and you can't use your computer or access the vital information stored on it. With our "I want it now" mindset, we are quick to start using the latest, greatest gadgetry and software, but forever seem to play a game of catch-up trying to cover all the security concerns. It's time to start changing that.

How exciting — a new mandatory computer security awareness course that all users of NIH computer resources must take prior to Mar. 30! Before you take a big sigh, there are lots of good reasons why the requirement is in both NIH's and your best interest. Aside from being required by law (Government Information Security Reform Act, among others), secure IT resources underlie the NIH mission. In addition, you would be amazed at how many people lack the most basic understanding of — let alone practice — common-sense IT security. While hacker attacks via the Internet are worse than ever, there are still people using outdated anti-virus software, unpatched, vulnerable systems, poor or no password protection, and portable devices (laptop computers, Blackberries, Palm Pilots and other personal digital assistants, and wireless technologies) lacking sufficient protection.

The new online training is located at http://irtsectraining.nih.gov/. NIH users must submit log-in information for tracking purposes. The training course consists of seven modules and requires approximately 30-40 minutes to complete — depending on how many links you visit. It contains lots of useful information, is easy to navigate and can be used as a resource. When you've completed the course, you'll have a better understanding of the NIH IT security program, your IT responsibilities and where to get assistance. More importantly, you will become aware of easily adoptable practices that help ensure a safe computing environment in the office, at home and while traveling.

Remember, your security is affected by everyone who shares a network connection with your computer, everyone who can enter your office space, anyone who knows or can easily guess your password, and anything you leave behind unlocked (including what's in your trash can). Take the course and change your perceptions; security is everyone's responsibility. If you have questions about the training, contact your institute or center information systems security officer (ISSO). The ISSO contact list is located at: http://irm.cit.nih.gov/nihsecurity/scroster.html.


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