MySpace was the social media platform. BlackBerry was top tech in mobile devices. Google Maps did not exist.

It was 2004, the year of the very first Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

The internet was becoming increasingly ingrained in culture, business, and education worldwide — and with its exponential growth came an increase in cyber crime. In response, the National Cybersecurity Alliance and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security created Cybersecurity Awareness Month to educate the public about cybersecurity and how to stay safe online. 

Back in 2004, computing happened primarily at home or in the office on a desktop computer, and the first Cybersecurity Awareness Month included a tip or two that seem quaint today, such as, “Disconnect from the internet when not in use.” (When is that?!) However, many of the tips offered for staying safe online still apply. 

“While attacks have gotten more sophisticated over the years, for users, it still boils down to being vigilant and taking simple precautions, such as using multifactor authentication whenever possible, looking out for and reporting suspicious email and texts, and being careful about what information you share online,” said Randy Marchany, chief information security officer at Virginia Tech.

The 20th annual Cybersecurity Awareness Month echoes the importance of following the basics through its new theme of “Secure Our World,” which focuses on four key actions we can incorporate into our everyday routines, including making strong passwords, using multifactor authentication, learning to recognize and report phishing, and keeping software up to date.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month campaign snapshots in 2004 and the 2023.

Virginia Tech is joining the celebration with resources, events, and activities designed to help everyone enhance their online safety.

Resources and tips from the Division of Information Technology

The Division of Information Technology’s Cybersecurity Awareness resource guide provides guidance to help users of all ages develop healthy cybersecurity habits at work, home, and school, regardless of their level of technical expertise. 

The guide includes tips from Cybersecurity Awareness Month and more:

The IT Security Office also has a wealth of information on its website, including several security awareness training opportunities for university students, employees, and departments.

In addition, the Division of IT will share tips, fun facts, and more on Instagram throughout the month of October. Follow @vt_techsupport to learn more.

Try some 'hands-on hacking' with the Virginia Cyber Range

Cybersecurity Career Week, which takes place Oct. 16 -21 this year, aims to generate awareness and interest in the many job opportunities available in the high-demand cybersecurity field.

To encourage the community to explore the wide range of skills involved in cybersecurity roles, the Virginia Cyber Range is again hosting a virtual Jeopardy-style "Capture the Flag" (CTF) competition Oct. 17-20. 

The competition is free and open to the public and offers a fun way to test your cybersecurity skills in a low-stakes gaming environment. Challenges will be appropriate for a range of participants, including beginner-friendly challenges to get new players involved. An optional, introductory workshop will be offered prior to the start.

The Virginia Cyber Range and the National Security Institute (NIST) partnered "to provide a cybersecurity career week CTF for the last four years. It is a great outreach opportunity for us, and a way to highlight Virginia's efforts to empower cybersecurity educators," said David Raymond, interim vice president for information technology and CIO and Virginia Cyber Range director. 

Visit the Cyber Range Career Week event page for details and registration.

Attend a cybersecurity career development event through the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative

Virginia Tech plays a leadership role in the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) which brings together 42-plus higher education, industry, and government organizations in Virginia to focus on research, workforce development, and innovation at the intersection of security, autonomous systems, and intelligence. CCI aims to make Virginia a globally recognized center of excellence in cybersecurity, and is working to help fill the estimated 60,000 open cybersecurity jobs in the state with top talent.

CCI is hosting several events throughout October for both students and professionals to help advance their careers in cybersecurity: 

To learn more about Cybersecurity Awareness Month, visit Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency or the National Cybersecurity Alliance event page. For more Cybersecurity Career Week activities both virtually and in your community, visit the NIST Cybersecurity Career Week page.

Share this story