Western Courier

uTech promotes cyber security

Robby Barlow

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University Technology at Western Illinois University (uTech), with the help of staysafeonline.org and other IT security-focused websites, has been promoting awareness of cyber security throughout October as part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

National Cyber Security Month was created as a collaborative effort between government and industry to ensure every American has the resources they need to stay safer and more secure online.

 University Technology has done a multitude of things throughout the month according to Robert Emmert, the director of IT Technology for uTech.

 “Each week during the month, a different security topic was presented,” Emmert said. “In addition, the WIU community received an email each week about that week’s topic with links to find more information. uTech also created a website with all this same information.”

 Beyond sending out emails, uTech held two informational presentations on passwords and Google’s multi-factor authentication during the second week of October. There are also regular posts about cyber security on uTech’s social media accounts that have been viewed over 16,000 times to date.

 The biggest threat that faces Western students in terms of cyber security is phishing, according to Emmert.

“Phishing is the attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money), often for malicious reasons, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication,” Emmert said. “If cyber criminals can gain access to systems and data through a legitimate account, they are able to launch attacks against other University-owned systems behind the firewall without raising alarms.”

When it comes to cyber security issues that students should be more aware of, Emmert said that students should be more aware of what they share and post online.

“If your account is compromised, you may have to spend considerable time and effort correcting the issue,” Emmert said. “Maybe you’ll be lucky and only have to deal with changing your login credentials.”

There can be really devastating effects caused by compromised accounts to Western students’ futures.

“For example, if your Facebook or LinkedIn account is compromised and a potential employer looks at your site, there may be unwanted information or content on there that could result in the loss of your job, an internship, etc,” Emmert said.

Data breaches are a major concern for institutions such as Western, and uTech has several lines of defense against unauthorized access to systems and data.

“First, uTech has deployed firewalls and intrusion detection systems to prevent unwanted traffic from reaching our networks,” Emmert said. “Secondly, we isolate systems and data and only allow other devices and users access if there is need and a specific job responsibility. We also scan university-owned systems for sensitive information and work with the owners to secure or remove it. Lastly, WIU has policies and procedures about password requirements, system usage and data handling.”

The Western community can protect themselves against cyber security threats through a variety of methods.

“uTech asks that WIU students, faculty and staff to use strong passwords,” Emmert said. “When possible, they should also use multi-factor authentication to secure their accounts. Don’t share your login information with other people. Be very suspicious of emails. Emails can look as though they are legitimate but contain links that are dangerous. Also be suspicious of phone calls, aka phishing attacks, from people asking for login information. uTech also recommends that you password/PIN protect all of your devices, including cell phones, and change any default passwords that come
with the device.”

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
uTech promotes cyber security