Vista, CA –The City of Vista and the San Diego Cyber Center of Excellence (SDCCOE) have partnered for a free cyber awareness and security education program that will be available to all Vista small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. The virtual program is anticipated to begin in January 2022 and last for 90 days. The program educates small businesses about how to protect themselves from cyber-attacks, hacks, network weaknesses and more.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent surge of remote working have put companies at greater risk of cyberattacks and data breaches. The FBI has reported that cybercrime increased by 300% in 2020, with nearly one-third of reported cybercrimes involving a small business. The SDCCOE is on a mission to build a cyber-aware, secure and resilient region through local partnerships, programs, education and industry collaboration to prevent cybercrime in the region and beyond.
“In San Diego County, we are home to massive industries. The SDCCOE is dedicated to helping the region understand cybersecurity risks, identify issues, create regional collaboration and drive systematic solutions for the cyber ecosystem,” said President and CEO of the San Diego Cyber Center of Excellence Lisa Easterly.
The free cyber-awareness program will provide participating businesses with a briefing of cyber threats from the FBI’s San Diego Cyber Task Force, a Cyber Risk Scan Snapshot by Mastercard RiskRecon, cybersecurity awareness employee training by ESET, and connections to SDCCOE’s extensive members and partners.
Easterly noted that cyberattacks focus on small businesses that are connected to high-profile organizations to build potential access to the larger target. “Often, large operation cyber attacks begin by reaching a small business that is connected to a larger organization. It could be the company that delivers snacks to the vending machines or a consultant group. Hackers are looking for the underbelly to find a way in,” said Easterly.
Cyber breaches can be extremely costly, and when small businesses are hit, recovery can be a long road.
In San Diego County specifically, many small businesses are part of a business ecosystem that supports key industries like healthcare, technology and defense. The SDCCOE believes that through fostering local partnerships, building a diverse portfolio of partners, and educating from the small businesses up, the San Diego region can become more resilient and armored against cyberattacks.
“Cybersecurity has become everyone’s business. Cybersecurity needs to be a part of the business strategy from the beginning,” said Easterly. “It no longer can only rest on the shoulders of one employee or IT department. All employees need to have training and education on risk prevention and security best practices.”
The SDCCOE and City of Vista encourage businesses to take advantage of their free cyber awareness program to help promote economic development and prevent the financial challenges that accompany cyberattacks. “Small businesses cannot afford to lose stride while we continue to recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kevin Ham, economic development director for the City of Vista. “Ignoring cybersecurity with customers’ ever-increasing reliance on online shopping is not a viable option for many of Vista’s businesses, and this program helps support them in their efforts to adopt industry best practices.”
The Vista Small Business Cyber-Awareness Program is the second North County city to implement the free program for small businesses.
Specifics of the program:
- FBI cyber briefing with San Diego special agents – The City of Vista’s cyber-awareness program kicks off with a briefing by special agents from the San Diego FBI field office on an overview of cyber threats, current risk landscape and attack mitigation strategies and resources. SDCCOE and the San Diego FBI special agents will provide all participants with key contacts list and helpful resources. The briefing also presents the opportunity for local businesses to familiarize themselves with local law enforcement officers who are working to protect their digital assets.
- Cyber Risk Scan Snapshots by Mastercard Risk Recon – The second phase of the City of Vista’s cyber-awareness program includes the Cyber Risk Scan Snapshot by Mastercard RiskRecon. It is comparable to a credit score; only instead of measuring credit, it evaluates a business’ cyber security network and security level. All participating companies will receive an offer for discounted renewal for companies that would like to continue a risk scan subscription beyond the free program.
- Cybersecurity Employee Awareness Training – Following the Cyber Risk Scan Snapshot analysis, the program segments to focus directly on Cybersecurity Employee Awareness Training provided by ESET. ESET is an award-winning cybersecurity technology provider for homes and businesses that aims to protect all aspects of their customers’ digital life. The global company’s North America headquarters is in Little Italy in downtown San Diego.
As a part of the program, ESET will offer free 90-day subscriptions to their premium security training for all participating businesses. The training will be accessible to all employees of each participating company – online and on-demand. It focuses on phishing, compromised passwords and weak network security. ESET will offer a discounted renewal for those that would like to continue the subscription beyond the complimentary period.
- Connectivity to SDCCOE’s Members and Partners – The program will conclude by SDCCOE providing all participants with connectivity and referrals to the partners and advisors in San Diego’s cyber ecosystem – including the commercial and defense industries, academia and government – for additional cybersecurity products and services, talent sourcing and workforce development. SDCCOE will also supply resource materials and invitations to cybersecurity programs and events.
As a part of its partnership with Mastercard RiskRecon, the participating businesses will be included in an ongoing case study for Mastercard’s City Possible campaign. According to Easterly, Mastercard is interested in publishing a case study on the pilot program to showcase how to put the digital economy to work for everyone, everywhere – by deploying data insights, technology and human capital to tackle pressing global challenges. Mastercard will showcase how the City of Vista and CCOE are helping achieve resiliency and sustainable growth by deploying innovative infrastructure, partnerships and technology. The collaborative case study will be shared with the City Possible Global Network of over 500 cities in more than 50 countries worldwide.
- Small businesses located in Vista with fewer than 100 employees can sign up for the program by visiting the City of Vista website here: Cybersecurity Awareness Program.
- San Diego jurisdictions who are looking to implement a cybersecurity awareness program for their area, visit sdccoe.org to begin a partnership today.
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