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Ole Miss promoting internet awareness and safety during Cyber Security month

By Haley Myatt

Special to the EAGLE

The University of Mississippi is participating in the annual campaign, National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) which aims at raising awareness about the importance of cybersecurity.

Observed every October, NCSAM is designed to engage and educate the public and private sector partners about the tools and resources needed to stay safe online, thus increasing resilience against cyber incidents.

Tiffany Schoenike, Director of Campaigns and Initiatives at the National Cyber Security Alliances says that their website tries to provide a lot of actionable and simple tips and advice to securing their safety online from the number one issue of identity theft. She states that while they are providing awareness people should also know that there is no way anything can ever be 100 percent un-hackable.

“Feeling safe enables you to do what you love,” Schoenike said. “If you share with care it really enhances your life with everyone around you, enabling you to connect. While it’s only a month-long event we are encouraging it to be an opportunity for everyone to engage in online safety year round.”

Micheal Hall, IT Security Coordinator, and Nishanth Rodrigues, Chief Information Officer, state that phishing and malware are the biggest threats the Ole Miss community faces and what most people come to their department for.

“Considering technology changes rapidly, this is a great opportunity to review our existing security controls and the latest techniques,” Hall and Rodrigues said. “With all the information security breaches that have occurred recently, it is more important than ever for us as a society to acknowledge and embrace cybersecurity awareness.”

Brian Young, Interim Head of Science Library and Assistant and professor of digital media studies, says he knows people who entrusted certain websites that looked legit to buy things off of the internet but the site ended up stealing their personal information.

“Some websites look so real and so I wonder if these people [hackers] were to put more effort into the presence of their website, would they be able to hack more computers,” Young said. “There would be a lot of issues of people falling for these scams if their site looked professional and held to the standards we set for how a website should look.”

This year marks the 14th year of NCSAM, and Instructional Design and Training Specialist, Andrew Davis says he is usually not in favor of months devoted to topics like this because he thinks it implies that cybersecurity and internet hygiene is not important in the other 11 months of the year.

“The issue itself is critical,” Davis said. “Since most peoples’ lives are so consolidated on mobile devices, it’s more important than ever to secure those devices and all accounts attached to them. Mobile devices are a single point of failure. I think people definitely need to be aware of the risks and rewards that come with digital convenience.”

Young disagrees with Davis and thinks that NCSAM efforts are taking steps in the right direction to inform the public about the dangers of the internet if not used responsibly. Young thinks that because there is an awareness month for this, it means that not enough people know about it, thus they need to be engaged with digital media around them.

Young, Hall and Rodrigues say that because we have become so reliant on technology, criminals increasingly focus on cyber, and it has resulted in more news as dialogue. Young says that we are becoming less secure in our privacy in exchange for convenience and that before the internet, there were very little ways for someone to steal your information.

“People no longer need to don masks and rob banks; instead, they can perform these same acts from the privacy of their homes and achieve even more grand results, ” Hall and Rodrigues said.

When asked if they feel “safe” using the internet Davis and Young said that they feel safe because they use the best practices to avoid any cyber threats.

“I am far more worried that unscrupulous corporations like Equifax and government agencies put in my information at risk,” Davis said. “In the case of Equifax, I don’t really have much choice in the matter.”

“One issue that really stands out to me is how content has become so divided on the internet,” Young said. “Filter bubbles have made our computers so divisive because the filter thinks it is showing you what you want to see, which is concerning me.”

At least 41 states have introduced more than 240 bills or resolutions related to cybersecurity in 2017 with key areas of legislative activity including promoting workforce training in technology, funding for cybersecurity programs and initiatives and targeting computer crimes. Mississippi alone passed legislation establishing enterprise security programs overseeing cybersecurity across the state.

The Information Technology department on campus posted a link to a list of ways individuals can stay safe online. The list includes: keeping your security software current, protect your personal information with strong passcodes and using ad blockers and tracking protectors on your desktop web browser.

Davis elaborated to the list stating people should keep information about themselves on their social media accounts locked down, and not allow social media accounts to broadcast their location.

“There are downfalls to everything,” Davis said. “On the whole, the internet may be one of mankind’s greatest achievements: there may be some snags, but we shouldn’t ever forget the big picture.”

For additional information on tips/advice to protect your information visit itsecurity.olemiss.edu and StopThinkConnect.org.