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UIT promotes cybersecurity on campus this month

Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 08:10

This month, University Information Technology (UIT) initiated a university−wide campaign encouraging members of the Tufts community to keep their electronics safe from security breaches.

In light of increased global awareness about the importance of password security on smartphones and tablets, UIT has declared mobile passwords its focus for the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Awareness month.

Theft of cell phones and other mobile electronic devices is one of the fastest ways that data can be stolen, UIT Director of Communications and Organizational Effectiveness Dawn Irish said.

Irish said UIT is encouraging students and faculty to enact password protection on all of their devices, as passwords can stand in the way of data breaches if the device is stolen. A thief could gain access to emails, personal information, mobile banking accounts and health records on a device that is not password−protected, she added.

Many people are continually logged on to their favorite websites or save their passwords in their phone, UIT Director for Information Security Chuck Young said. This is an open door for criminals to access personal information and, Irish added, leave a victim vulnerable to Facebook spam.

“We forget that we have all these keys hiding inside of our phone and so when we lose our phone or it gets stolen, it’s a sad moment,” Young said. “If the things gets lost, if there’s a password on [the phone], most people feel much better.”

The campaign for mobile mindfulness, as UIT calls it, includes posters displaying the statistic that “25 percent of people have a device stolen; 70 percent don’t use passwords.” Smartphones, tablets, e−readers and laptops are all at risk, Irish said, noting that the danger is especially high for faculty and staff on campus who have sensitive or confidential information stored on their devices.

“If they have university data on their devices, they should have it password protected,” Irish said.

Although Young believes that faculty and staff are aware of the security risks of keeping their devices unlocked, he said the issue is increasingly relevant for everyone who owns a mobile device.

“There’s certainly more work to be done, but I think most organizations are finding that the mobile device challenge is the new frontier [in cyber security threats],” Young said.

Ahmed Hamdy, supervisor for the student employees at the Technology Support Center, said that the theme for UIT’s fifth annual National Cyber Security Awareness Month campaign is especially applicable to the modern day.

“For me, [changing] your password frequently [is important] ... One of the easiest things to hack is probably a password,” he said.

Irish said that mobile device owners often do not think about password protection until their phones or tablets are stolen.

“People don’t always want to hear about password protecting their devices until ... it happens to them,” Irish says.

Previous National Cyber Security Awareness Month campaigns on the Hill have covered concerns like virus protection and mobile Internet security. UIT has also urged faculty to use Identity Finder software on their devices as a precaution against identity theft, Irish said.

“When a phishing attack happens, we send out a blast email to let people know, and people still fall for them,” Irish said.

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