October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month -- a collaborative effort between government and industry to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and to help all Americans become more safe and secure online.

At the city of Dublin, safety is always our top priority. Our information technology team is constantly working to protect residents and employees by maintaining the integrity, confidentiality and availability of our sensitive information and supporting systems.

We work hard to defend the city's computers, networks and data against unauthorized access or attack.

All of the city's full-time employees undergo mandatory cybersecurity awareness training each year to help the IT team prevent phishing attempts. We also conduct our own simulated phishing campaigns to measure our effectiveness.

Phishing attacks use email or malicious websites to infect your machine with malware and viruses in order to collect personal and financial information.

Cybercriminals attempt to lure users to click on a link or open an attachment that infects their computers, creating vulnerability to attacks.

Ensuring that our employees remain trained and vigilant has been vital to our success in defending against phishing and cyber threats. Other cities have not been as fortunate.

For example, the city of Baltimore was victimized by ransomware last spring for the second time in a year. With help from the FBI, the city was able to quarantine the ransomware, but not before shutting down the majority of its servers as precaution and disrupting some city services.

A similar cyber-attack happened in August in Texas. Hackers infiltrated computer systems in 22 municipalities. In one case, birth and death certificates were not available online, and the city could not accept utility payments from residents.

Many defense strategies that we use at the city of Dublin also apply at home. For example, if you are unsure who an email is from -- even if the details appear accurate -- do not respond and do not click on any links or attachments found in that email.

Another good way to defend yourself online is to consider using the longest password or passphrase possible.

Get creative and customize your standard password for different sites. You can create a strong password by making it at least 11 characters long and including at least one upper- case character, one lower-case character, one numeric character and one special character.

By taking proactive steps, we all can enhance cybersecurity at home and in the workplace.

I encourage you to join the fight against cyber threats. You can get much more information to protect yourself and your family on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's website at dhs.gov/national-cyber-security-awareness-month.

Dublin chief information officer Doug McCollough submitted the City Notes column.