Information Technology Division Stresses Cyber Security
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 15:10
In honor of October as cyber security awareness month, the NDSU Information Technology division offers security tips for the protection of personal information.
“Technology is pretty much enmeshed in our lives today,” Chief IT Security Officer Teresa Semmens said. “We can’t get around it; we can’t live without it… So it’s important to be savvy about what you need to do to protect yourself and your information.”
The division will post daily security tips about online account and device safety on the Information Technology Services website throughout the month. These tips will also be posted on the NDSU Information Technology Security Facebook page.
The first tip of the month includes suggestions for creating secure passwords.
Jeff Gimbel, ITS security analyst, said one password should not be used for multiple accounts. With today’s technology, modern password crackers can crack a password within hours, he said.
He suggests using “passphrases” instead of a single password.
“For example, ‘my cat has fleas’ could be turned into a password,” he said. “That’s a very simple way to keep your accounts secure.”
Gimbel described some risks of social media accounts as well. Some websites monitor social media users who “check-in” at locations to learn when people are no longer at their homes, he said. Based on what information people had made available on their social media, these monitoring websites could post the address of the person and an estimated time of how long they would be gone from their home.
“It’s something that people should be aware of, what you are making available based on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pintrest,” Gimbel said. “I do believe people are putting a lot more information on Facebook than they should be.”
Many people are not cautious with the information they put on social media accounts because of an “it won’t happen to me” mentality, Gimbel said.
“People don’t realize that they are not a customer of Facebook; they are a product that Facebook markets,” Semmens said.
The IT division partnered with the Office of International Programs to sponsor the presentation “iPhone, iPad, iTravel: Traveling abroad safely with mobile devices.” This event will feature a panel discussion with administrators, faculty and staff about cyber safety concerns that people should be aware of when traveling abroad.
“A lot of our staff, faculty and students travel abroad, and sometimes they go to countries that aren’t quite so friendly,” Semmens said. “Some countries, in zest for being competitive, are not afraid to help themselves to intellectual property, so they will use your machine to get information.”
Semmens mentioned four guidelines to ensure the security of mobile devices: make your device passcode protected, enable geo-tracking in case the device is lost, use caution in downloading apps and set the device to wipe after a certain number of failed log-in attempts.
Gary Smith, dean of engineering and architecture, will be a panelist at the event and will speak on his own experiences of cyber safety while traveling abroad.
This presentation will take place from noon to 1 p.m. on Oct. 9 in the Peace Garden Room and Oct. 25 in the Hidatsa Room in the Memorial Union.
The IT division will also give a presentation about social media account safety at the Wellness Fair Oct. 16 at the Wallman Wellness Center.