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Last Updated: September 2011

Case Study

Who's Watching Charlottesville: Community Based Security Awareness


The “Who’s Watching Charlottesville?” initiative is a diverse group of concerned local organizations in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area of Virginia.

This cross-sector initiative pools the resources of the following partners in a community effort to educate area residents in how to protect themselves online. Member institutions include the following:

  • The University of Virginia
  • UVA Community Credit Union
  • Albemarle County Government
  • Albemarle County Public Schools
  • Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC)

The goal of the “Who’s Watching Charlottesville?” campaign is to encourage Charlottesville area residents to consider the question, “Who is really watching us online?” because there’s a false sense of security and anonymity on the Internet. This initiative seeks to educate people so they understand that the Web is an incredible community with much to offer, but its many benefits don’t come without risks.

Our mission is to empower our community through education to promote safe and savvy Internet use.


In coordination with the National Cyber Security Alliance, and occurring each October as part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, the “Who’s Watching?” campaign features:

  • A series of cyber security awareness presentations open to the public, and
  • A comprehensive website, which serves as a gateway to cybersecurity information on the Internet.

Each Charlottesville-area cybersecurity presentation features discussions on hot-button issues such as phishing scams, social networking sites, and identity theft, the nation's fastest-growing crime. A panel of police, financial service providers, and security experts share techniques people can use to protect themselves and their loved ones online.

The website provides information on these topics, as well as on avoiding viruses; spyware and adware; using firewalls; safer online shopping; ensuring kids' safety online; protecting your privacy on paper; and a daily security tip. It also features an award-winning one-minute video on the potential pitfalls of social networking websites.

The success of “Who’s Watching Charlottesville?” has been noted and 2 other areas in Virginia – Hampton Roads and Chesterfield County – have since followed our model to set up similar local cyber security awareness coalitions of their own.


Competition for attention among a host of awareness activities challenges the best of programs. A complex topic, such as computer security, is difficult to excite the typical computer user.

Implementation Challenges

Over time, we learned that it is best to target and present at specific institutions versus having general public events.

Future Plans

Albemarle County is home to some closed cultural environments such as defense and hospitals. Who’s Watching Charlottesville would do well to present in these two sectors.

Return on Investment



5 (on a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 is Highly Replicable)


3 (on a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 is Highly Effective)

Submitted By

Marty Peterman, IT Security Specialist, University of Virginia

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