OIT promotes Cyber Security Month on campus

By Marleigh Felsenstein

October is a month of many scary things: midterms, Halloween and even identity theft.

Hannah Cohen/Collegian File Photo

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, a national effort to increase the awareness of online dangers. It is promoted by many organizations, including the University of Massachusetts Office of Information Technologies, the federal government and Educause, a nonprofit company of information technology professionals across the country who aim to “advance higher education,” according to their website.

Fred McIver, technical services manager for the health services division of OIT, said that while it is important to be aware of what is dangerous online, it is equally as important to physically lock down electronic devices to prevent theft. He said that there is an “unknown value of data” on a person’s laptop, and one’s identity could be stolen based solely off of  the amount of personal information that is stored there.

“It could really ruin a life,” McIver said.

McIver said there has been a spike in laptop theft since last year, especially in the busier parts of campus, including the library, the Rec Center, dining halls and other eateries such as Bluewall in the Campus Center. OIT has been collaborating with the UMass police department following the rise in thefts. Regarding these thefts, McIver said that students need to improve their security practices.

He said many people keep personal information on their laptops, so extra care should be taken as to when they leave belongings lying around—this includes laptops, phones and UCards. The thieves are not usually UMass students stealing from other UMass students—they come from the outside, McIver said, adding that laptop thefts are particuarly “crimes of opportunity.” Dorm rooms should always be locked, and students should “safeguard things they own,” he said.

October was chosen as Cyber Security Month because of its convenience, McIver said. In September, students are still settling in, and in November, people are already starting to think about Thanksgiving. Therefore, McIver said that October is a good time to grab everyone’s attention to make sure they understand the seriousness of protecting their laptop, their identity and their personal information.

McIver added that OIT also enjoys playing off of the Halloween theme, saying, “Halloween is scary, and so is the thought of someone breaking into your computer.”

A practice known as “phishing” is also at large. Phishing is when online criminals send legitimate looking e-mails that may even have the UMass logo on them to try to trick people into sending them personal information McIver said that it is very important that any e-mail from the University has the “150 years” stamp on it, along with the logo, to prove its legitimacy.

In order to spread awareness of CSAM on campus, OIT is taking a “multimedia approach.” There are online activities designed to teach students about the importance of protecting their computers and phones, as well as information posted on the OIT Facebook page.

Every Wednesday, McIver will be tabling in the Campus Center concourse. There, students can play the game “Plinko” to be entered into a daily drawing for prizes, such as solar chargers. OIT is also hosting a student video and poster contest for artistically, with the first place prize of a $250 Amazon gift card. Educause is also hosting its own contest for cash prizes that go up to the thousands.

Through this effort, OIT is trying to “keep the bad guys at bay,” McIver said. If students are more cautious, especially with physical security, the overall crime on campus will drop.

“It’s a group effort,” he said.

Marleigh Felsenstein can be reached at [email protected]