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    November 1, 2006
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Worms, hackers and spam, oh my!

How Computer Services protects a small-city network from cyber attacks

Since January there have been 9.3 million reported cases of identity theft, with more than 30 percent of disclosures involving breaches of cyber-security at educational institutions.

So, when’s the last time you’ve changed your password?

Computer Services Safety Tips

Identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in America, and with millions of people logging onto the Internet every minute it’s not easy to track down culprits.

Many aspects of Americans’ everyday lives now involve the Internet, from communications to entertainment to shopping. But with the technological advancement of our daily lives, protection from viruses, hackers and spam has become a necessity.

That’s why the U.S. government recently declared October Cyber Security Awareness Month. The goal of the international collaborative effort, which was initiated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, as well as governments, major universities and the online industry, was to educate Internet users of all ages about safe online practices.

Keeping your computer healthy, developing a sharp eye for spotting online threats, and plain common sense are your best defense against criminals who try to steal your personal information while you're surfing the Internet, said Timothy O’Rourke, vice
president of computer and information services.

O’Rourke said that one of the biggest problems facing the University’s cyber-security is fraudulent e-mails. E-mail fraud, sometimes called “phishing,” uses e-mail messages and Web sites that look like they are from a legitimate organization, such as a bank, credit card provider, retailer or government agency, to trick consumers into providing personal information.

Over the last five years, O’Rourke and his staff have been taking pre-emptive measures to keep private faculty, staff and student information out of the wrong hands. The most difficult, but perhaps the most necessary, measure was to stop using Social Security numbers as a means of University identification. 

“There are bad people out these who are trying to steal information, and using students’ Social Security numbers [as identification] was too dangerous,” O’Rourke said.

In addition to creating the new identification system, Temple also implemented new firewalls and purchased the latest intrusion prevention devices to keep people from infiltrating the University’s network.

According to Seth Shestack, the acting chief information security officer, these precautions are steps in the right direction, but in order for Temple to be completely secure, the Computer Services department must increasingly guard against more virulent attacks and online disruptions. Shestack’s biggest responsibility is to be on the lookout for the latest online threats.

The University has extensive security systems in place that work around the clock to protect the school’s community from fraudulent e-mails and viruses, O’Rourke said, and in fact, the University stops hundreds of thousands of e-mail viruses a day before users log onto their TUMail account. But users have a role to play in protecting themselves as well, O’Rourke said. He added that there are some simple steps that users can take to secure their computers and educate themselves about the latest bogus scams so they don’t become a victim.

“One of the newest threats to pop up in the last few months are virus attacks through instant messenger,” Shestack said. “Instant messenger can be a great thing, but users shouldn’t click on attachments and links, because many times they will contain a virus.”

O’Rourke said the best way users can protect themselves from cyber threats is by becoming appropriately paranoid.

“Stay alert, question every urgent message that asks for personal information, and be proactive in keeping computer safeguards up to date and working,” he advised.

Online Security Tips

  • Swear off peer-to-peer file sharing. These programs can bypass your operating system’s security, putting your personal data at risk.
  • Secure your Windows. Turn on automatic Windows Update.
  • Keep ’em guessing. Change your password frequently.
  • Privacy counts. Never share your password.
  • Smack down computer viruses. Never open an e-mail attachment from someone who you don’t know or an e-mail attachment with an .exe suffix. Keep your antivirus software up to date.
  • Can spam. Be careful when giving out your e-mail address, unless you want to be bombarded by spam.
  • Don’t get hooked by phishing scams. Beware of e-mail links that ask for personal information.
  • IMmediate danger? Instant messenger (IM) viruses are on the rise. Never download a file from someone you don’t know.

Information provided by Computer Services.

By Karen Shuey

For the Temple Times

 

 


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