The month of October is favored for bringing the first signs of autumn, the festivities of Halloween and the distinction of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. However, October is also Cyber Security Awareness Month.
Every day, there are about one million victims of cybercrime across the globe, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Most could have avoided the attack if they were more educated on cyber security.
What can you do to arm yourself with cyber knowledge?
“Stop.Think.Connect.,” said Leland Lyerla, edTech support and information technology security analyst.
STOP. THINK. CONNECT. is the global cyber security awareness campaign to help all digital citizens stay safer and more secure online.
“Phishing and malware distributors thrive on knee-jerk reactions to official-looking e-mails, texts and pop-up windows,” said Lyerla. “So when you encounter one of these messages, ‘When in doubt, throw it out.’”
Lyerla says links in emails, tweets, posts and online advertising are often ways cyber criminals compromise computers and other devices.
“If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or if appropriate, mark it as junk email,” Lyerla said.
In efforts to inform the Union community about cyber safety, the information technology department has posted signs in building at all Union campuses, said John David Barham, director of information technology services and e-business administration.
“Slides on hallway TVs and on the portal homepages promote security awareness,” Barham said. “E-newsletters that are sent daily to new students and new employees briefly explain Stop.Think.Connect.”
Lyerla added that you should keep track of your personal electronics. Do not leave your laptop, phone or tablet unattended for any length of time.
“It only takes a minute for someone to walk away with your electronic devices and the personal information stored on them,” Lyerla said.
Lyerla said you should also make your passwords “long and strong” and change them regularly. Do not use the same password for multiple accounts. Do not share your passwords with anyone, whether online or in person.
This week, information technology emailed the annual TechQual survey to members of the university community. It includes questions that will help the IT department educate and evaluate students, faculty and staff regarding information security.
Don Dean, director of infrastructure support services, said that the IT department takes a layered and strategic approach to protecting and securing Union’s network infrastructure and campus devices.
“The first layer of protection deals with preventing unauthorized outside access,” Dean said. “This is accomplished using firewalls in our core network infrastructure and as well as wireless network access points that have firewall services.”
Dean said the next layer addresses the threat of malware, viruses and phishing attempts.Having separate networks with specific security rules applied to each provides an additional layer of protection.
“There are separate networks for employees, for students and for devices such as network equipment, printers, phones and other devices,” Dean said. “This separation allows us to provide focused security to users, devices and critical network services.”
Jim Avery, associate vice president for information technology, said data security is one of the highest priorities and most pressing concerns in organizations today.
“This is true for institutions of higher education, including Union University where we’ve spent a great deal of time and energy not only fortifying our technology infrastructure, but also raising the awareness of the importance of data security and protection to our faculty, staff, and students,” Avery said.
Whether using university technology resources or personal devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets, Avery said the vulnerabilities to individual identity and personal and institutional data are real.
“We all share in the responsibility of protecting these assets and using technology resources in a careful and responsible manner.”
A new Union-specific campaign on cyber awareness will be unveiled in Nov. 2014. In the meantime, the IT department has recently created @keepinguusecure, a twitter account to keep the public aware of Union security information.