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On Calendars, Calendrics and the New Year – 2014

Originally published January 21, 2014

Like most of you, surely, as the end of each year comes around I start receiving a number of calendars for the coming new year, from many different sources, to hang on my walls or lay on my desk. They start arriving around September and wane around Christmas Day, when surely one or two – often the most beautiful or elaborate – appear wrapped as gifts under my tree.

Mind you that I actually enjoy many of them, given the aesthetics of the photos or illustrations, the creativity of the design or just the joy and spiritual uplifting that many of these calendars bring. Who would not want to celebrate each month in 2014 with a brand new picture of your 3-year-old granddaughter in some adorable pose? Or a reminder, as a member of the Tennessee Squire Association, that April 25th is the Wyooter Hunt in Barbecue Hill, Lynchburg? Or the commemoration, in honor of your service, of each important date in the history of the United States Army?

Yes, I am the proud owner of all these 2014 calendars as well as a few more. None of these compare – historically speaking, of course – with the one for 2008 where I was featured as Mr. September, ironing bare chested, Putin-style, on the deck of a ship in Antarctica, the interesting brain-child of our Australian photographer/artist in residence, to publish an “extreme ironing” calendar in memory of our trip to that frozen continent.

Like many of you these days, most of my calendaring and calendric consultation gets done electronically or online. We don’t think much about the origins of the calendar, its ancient link to the sighting of a new moon, or all the travails of conversion between lunar and solar timekeeping that give rise to the leap year – which 2014 is not.

For those of us dealing with government and government contracts, we are also frequently reminded of needing to simultaneously synchronize calendar years, with fiscal years, with contract years. For all these reasons, electronic calendars are clearly an important advancement enabled by technology.

My every workday is guided by my Outlook calendar; “invites” find themselves accepted or rejected, sometimes with little effort (or attention) on my part – leading to more calendar churn than would otherwise happen. My electronic calendar does give me the ability to easily find when I met last with Person X, or whether I have spent 25% more time on staff meetings this month than last month, as well as providing alerts in advance of due dates and important anniversaries. From the business intelligence practitioner’s viewpoint, electronic calendars enable calendrical analysis that can favorably impact personal time management and organizational business objectives.

In spite of this, there is a role for the legacy calendars hanging in communal areas and able to transmit important messages of general interest and importance. One example of this is the 2014 Cyber Security Calendar published by the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), a Division of the Center for Internet Security (CIS) on whose board I sit.

For starters MS-ISAC conducts a children’s cyber security poster contest to encourage students, parents and educators to participate in cyber security awareness. Each state is encouraged to run its own contest and enter the winners into the MS-ISAC contest. Ultimately the 12 top selections adorn each month of the New Year’s calendar.

The messaging, of course, is the important part. A reminder every second Tuesday of the month that it is “Microsoft Patch Tuesday” focuses on the need to fix vulnerabilities as soon as possible.

But the rest of calendar is replete with helpful messages that raise awareness to the problems and nudge us to solutions and implementation of critical controls. Without focusing on either an order of priorities or the date of placement, we see:

  • January 17: “Be sure to have a firewall installed and enabled on your computer.”

  • March 14: “Beware of tax related scams.”

  • April 1: “Don’t be fooled by emails that looks too good to be true.”

  • May 15: “Teach children not to respond to cyberbullies.”

  • July 28: “Use good cyber ethics when you are on the Internet.”

  • September 2: “Don’t fall for phishing scams.”

  • November 28: “Look for ‘https’ in the URL when shopping online.”

  • December 26: “Use strong passwords on computers and devices.”

Clearly the calendar is intended to raise cyber security awareness for all parties, but the poster contest and the selection process also allows the young participants to tell us how they see the problem and what they perceive as major themes. Some of the key ones in 2014 are: protecting private information, texting and driving, cyber bullying and phishing. The posters reflect this, sometimes with a touch of genius.

Protect Private Information

Madeline, a 5th grader from Minnesota, kicks off January with a warning about protecting private information using an illustrated rhyme:

Image 1: January, 2014 Cyber Security Calendar, Copyright MS-ISAC

Perils of Texting

December’s poster from Dena, a 6th grader from West Virginia, brings attention to the perils of texting and driving with the drawing of a school bus accident, supposedly the result of this dangerous practice.

Image 2: December, 2014 Cyber Security Calendar, Copyright MS-ISAC

A New Mindset

And my absolute favorite is August, where Amy, an 8th grader from Minnesota, suggests we need an attitude reboot command with which to address some of the dangers we face online.

Image 3: August, 2014 Cyber Security Calendar, Copyright MS-ISAC

Masterful and beautiful!

So we will continue to move to electronic calendaring and automated scheduling, no doubt, but there is still an important role for the old-style calendar, especially when the message is as important as the one from MS-ISAC.

To download the complete 2014 Cyber Security Calendar, visit: http://msisac.cisecurity.org/resources/toolkit/oct13/index.cfm#toolkit

  • Dr. Ramon BarquinDr. Ramon Barquin

    Dr. Barquin is the President of Barquin International, a consulting firm, since 1994. He specializes in developing information systems strategies, particularly data warehousing, customer relationship management, business intelligence and knowledge management, for public and private sector enterprises. He has consulted for the U.S. Military, many government agencies and international governments and corporations.

    He had a long career in IBM with over 20 years covering both technical assignments and corporate management, including overseas postings and responsibilities. Afterwards he served as president of the Washington Consulting Group, where he had direct oversight for major U.S. Federal Government contracts.

    Dr. Barquin was elected a National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) Fellow in 2012. He serves on the Cybersecurity Subcommittee of the Department of Homeland Security’s Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee; is a Board Member of the Center for Internet Security and a member of the Steering Committee for the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council’s (ACT-IAC) Quadrennial Government Technology Review Committee. He was also the co-founder and first president of The Data Warehousing Institute, and president of the Computer Ethics Institute. His PhD is from MIT. 

    Dr. Barquin can be reached at rbarquin@barquin.com.

    Editor's note: More articles from Dr. Barquin are available in the BeyeNETWORK's Government Channel


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