CHICAGO – Earlier this month the credit reporting agency Equifax disclosed that they had suffered a cyber-attack that endangered the personal information of 143 million U.S. users. Even before the Equifax hack, 64 percent of Americans had been personally affected by a major data breach or data theft incident, according to a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center.
As the need for cyber security awareness grows, public libraries are stepping up efforts to provide critical digital literacy training and information. Topeka & Shawnee County (Kansas) Public Library recently hosted a public training session on Online Safety & Security Basics to help community members avoid online scams and recognize adware/malware traps. Chicago Public Library (CPL) has CyberNavigators on staff at branch locations throughout the city to assist patrons one-on-one with their computer questions. CPL has also partnered with Microsoft to create an additional course on their website https://chipublib.digitallearn.org titled "Keeping Your Computer Secure."
Throughout the month of October, the Public Library Association (PLA) and public libraries nationwide will celebrate National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM). NCSAM was created as a collaborative effort between government and industry to ensure every American has the resources they need to stay safer and more secure online. Additional information on NCSAM can be found at https://staysafeonline.org/ncsam.
PLA is doing its part by highlighting cyber security material on DigitalLearn.org, a collection of self-directed, interactive online tutorials developed by the association to help users increase their digital literacy. At DigitalLearn.org, learners can take short, self-directed courses that help them recognize danger and stay safe online. These include:
- Accounts and Passwords. This course teaches the basics of creating online accounts, including creating secure passwords and keeping accounts secure.
- Online Scams. This course helps new computer users identify and recognize types of scams, how to avoid getting hurt, and how to report them.
- Internet Privacy. This course helps learners understand the level of personal, confidential information we can share on websites and via email, and take control of the information we are constantly sending and receiving.
PLA recently added to DigitalLearn.org a set of customizable templates for instructors to design their own classroom training sessions. In recognition of NCSAM, PLA encourages libraries to develop classes focusing on the basics of cybersecurity, covering topics like computer viruses, antivirus software, safe web browsing, and strategies for creating and remembering effective passwords.
In February, PLA announced a partnership with Cox Communications (Cox) to build branded DigitalLearn websites for libraries in three pilot markets—Tucson, Arizona; Topeka, Kansas; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana—while connecting low-income families with digital literacy training and resources. In all Cox markets across the company’s 18-state footprint, Cox and the local libraries will collaborate on digital literacy and internet adoption initiatives, including an advertising campaign on Cox’s cross-channel cable lineup. Click here to learn more about the PLA/Cox project.
The Public Library Association (PLA) is the largest association dedicated to supporting the unique and evolving needs of public library professionals. Founded in 1944, PLA serves nearly 9,000 members in public libraries large and small in communities across the United States and Canada, with a growing presence around the world. PLA strives to help its members shape the essential institution of public libraries by serving as an indispensable ally for public library leaders. For more information about PLA, contact the PLA office at 1 (800) 545-2433, ext.5PLA, or firstname.lastname@example.org.