Improving cybersecurity, one password at a time

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kleidermacher interview cybersecurity_00022207

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Story highlights

  • Valerie Jarrett and Ajay Banga: Cyberthreats are among the greatest threats facing Americans today
  • Lock Down Your Login, a new public-private campaign, recently launched to assist in reducing these threats

Valerie Jarrett is a senior adviser to President Barack Obama. She oversees the Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs and is chairwoman of the White House Council on Women and Girls. Ajay Banga is president and CEO of Mastercard and a member of its board of directors. The views expressed in this commentary are their own.

(CNN)The President frequently gets letters from Americans who are worried about their online security -- and for good reason. Cyberthreats are among the most significant economic and national security challenges we face as a nation. Put simply, our economic prosperity and leadership in the 21st century will depend on the steps we take together to strengthen the cybersecurity of our citizens, our businesses and our country.

That is why we're joining together -- government and business -- to empower Americans with the tools and resources they need to better protect themselves and their families in the digital age. Whether it's shelter from the elements or protecting families from physical harm, safety and security is a foundational human need.
    Valerie Jarrett
    Ajay Banga
    In the physical world, the steps we take to protect ourselves are fairly evident and approachable. If, for example, we are concerned that someone might break into our home, we would install a deadbolt or a security camera and alarm system. To secure our money, we put it in a safe, a lockbox or at a bank.
    The same understanding and easily approachable steps one can take to secure his or her savings, identity or innovative ideas do not always hold true in the constantly evolving set of technologies and services available in today's digital economy. It is not surprising, therefore, that between 2014 and 2015 alone, the number of Americans concerned about the risk posed by cyberthreats dramatically rose from 36% to 57%.
    While nearly all Americans believe they take steps to protect their financial information, less than half have ever changed the original passwords they established for their online financial accounts. Today, the tools to keep our information safe are more readily available than ever. In many cases, they're as easy to use as the deadbolt on our front doors. But, for the deadbolt to be effective and provide that protection, installing the deadbolt alone isn't enough, we actually have to turn the lock.
    That is why recently we launched the Lock Down Your Login campaign. This is a public-private campaign designed to educate everyone on immediate and simple steps we can take today to better secure our data, personal information and online transactions.
    Strong authentication when logging into online accounts -- such as the use of a fingerprint or facial recognition -- to even more basic steps like the confirmation of a one-time code, could have prevented nearly 63% of the cyberintrusions successfully carried out last year alone.
    Americans today are more connected than ever -- 73% go online daily and one in five are constantly connected -- but they also consistently express high levels of concern about identity theft, device security and risks posed in rapidly growing sectors like the Internet of Things, where everyday objects -- from the car in your driveway to the refrigerator in your kitchen -- are being connected to the Internet.
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    These concerns are based in some hard realities. An estimated $15 billion was stolen from 13.1 million US consumers in 2015. This sounds like a lot of people, and it is, but given that the most common passwords in America are 123456 and 123456789, it should hardly be a revelation. If we're going to be connected, we need to be protected.
    And, just as the added security of a deadbolt lock can only be realized if we also turn the lock, each of us needs to actively decide to take that next step in securing the applications and services we love and rely upon daily.
    This is precisely the gap Lock Down Your Login aims to close by focusing on identifying and making widely available simple, meaningful security solutions that can and should be adopted by every American online.
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    While there's no panacea for cybercrime, enabling stronger authentication on key online services like email, payments, social media, travel and retail will provide our accounts with significantly greater security than a password alone.
    Together, we must act to ensure that the extraordinary opportunities made possible by the digital economy continue to flourish and outpace efforts by our cyberadversaries. Take action today to better secure yourself and your family online by visiting Lock Down Your Login here.