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Cyber safe

UMBC proves successful in protection against cyber attacks

With cyber attacks against universities on the rise, online college security systems, including those at UMBC, work hard to detect and protect students and faculty from potential breaches.

Cyberattacks are on the rise recently, and research universities are a popular target.

UMBC has not been one of these universities due to the strong threat detection and protection precautions the school has taken against security breaches for many years.

The reasons behind cyberattacks on universities can range from crime rings interested in credit card numbers, foreign governments attempting to penetrate nuclear databases, or students hacking the network to change grades. But there are also breach concerns because of universities and professors holding important patents for valuable items like prescription drugs, computer chips and fuel cells.

Some universities can find themselves as easy targets to cyber attacks because college computer networks are often set up with a more open dynamic idea and user friendly software.

Last year, the University of Delaware had a major security breach where the identities of more than 309,000 students, faculty and alumni were compromised. The database that was breached held the names, social security numbers, dates of birth and university identification numbers of the victims.

In addition to higher education, other large companies have been victims of cyber attacks like P.F Changs, Ebay, Domino’s Pizza and Sony in 2014 and 2015.

The issue for UMBC students: if large companies like these and other universities can have large scale security breaches, is our school safe?

Considering UMBC has not had any security breaches yet, it appears that the university’s Division of Information Technology (DoIT) has been successful in keeping the school secure from cyberattacks.

“UMBC has been working to protect the campus from attacks for many years,” said Mark Cather, the Chief Information Security Officer for UMBC. “Every day, we detect, block and manage many cyber attacks.”

DoIT’s effort to protect UMBC has been successful and because of the length of time these means of protection have been in place, there have not been any specific new methods of protection added.

“The recent attacks on Sony and other high-profile targets are not new,” said Cather. “They are just large attacks that are now being widely discussed in the media. Since we have been protecting the campus for many years, the recent attacks that are being covered in the media haven’t prompted ‘new’ initiatives to protect the campus.”

UMBC continues to improve their security through time and progression, and not due to recent attacks shown through media coverage or as a result of large scale incidents.

The security system involves many areas in its infrastructure and is fairly complicated, but has worked to keep the school protected for many years against breaches and attacks against students, staff and alumni.

It is especially important to keep research universities safe from any potential breach because of possible information the school could be holding.

Some ways UMBC and other universities can keep their users protected is through the simple changing of passwords, the encryption of student files that would access information to only a certain number of professors or not using external services like Dropbox to move around files or personal student information.

While UMBC should continue to be vigilant in protecting against cyber attacks, it is important to realize that there is no sudden cause for concern — while there has been much more recent discussion of bigger attacks in the media, it is not a sign that UMBC is more vulnerable to cyber attacks than it previously was.