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10/25/2017 - Jackson, Miss.

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month

As Halloween approaches, many Mississippians prepare to be spooked by friends and neighbors with frighteningly realistic haunted houses and other ghostly tricks, but nothing can be scarier than having your personal data compromised in real life.

Mississippi Public Universities are observing National Cyber Security Awareness Month with training for staff members on best practices for managing data and avoiding phishing scams. The internal training underscores the importance that cyber security plays in everyone's daily lives on campus.

"Because unauthorized access to data or devices can result in real harm to people, cyber security is not just necessary, it must be universally practiced by everyone, including end users and IT professionals," said Bob Wilson, Technology Security Officer at iTech at The University of Southern Mississippi. "Everyone, in a modern society, has some access to data or a device. Commonly, that device or data is their own, but in some cases, it is the data of millions of individuals."

Mississippi State University observed Cyber Security Awareness Week with a host of events on both the Starkville and Meridian campuses. Designed to give students, faculty, staff and community members an opportunity to gain important information from cyber security experts, the events included a Cyber Security Information booth hosted by Information Technology Services, a presentation that provided tips on identity protection, a presentation on offense-oriented cyber security and a panel discussion on cyber security.

Mississippi Valley State University's Director of Information Technology Torrey Moore presented a program on the dangers of phishing and email/network security to university leaders and others in the university community. Moore described techniques for phishing, or the attempt to obtain sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card information, often for malicious reasons, and provided tips on steps individuals can take to check the validity of an email and prevent becoming a victim of phishing. He also urged those who become a victim of phishing to have the computer tested to ensure it has not been comprised and to remember to reset passwords.

"Cyber security practitioners have become quite good at protecting data and devices from bad guys," said Wilson. "As a result, threat actors often rely on tactics that take advantage of people. Phishing and malware are the most successful methods by which threat actors are able to compromise systems and breach data. So, in a sense, everyone who has access to some data has a responsibility to protect that data. Everyone has to have some understanding of the basics of cyber security."

Training for Institutions of Higher Learning employees included good business practices related to cyber security and the dangers of keeping sensitive data on portable devices or remotely accessing data on open unsecured WiFi connections, such as those offered at hotels and airports.

Computer and mobile device users should also keep their guard up when receiving requests and information online.

"Everyone should be vigilant in responding to heart-wrenching calls for monetary contributions to the latest events in Las Vegas and the recent natural disasters," said David Sliman, Chief Information Officer at The University of Southern Mississippi. "Scammers will set up fake sites and defraud you of your money. Make your online donations through established and respected organizations to ensure your money is used for its intended beneficiaries."

Observed every October, National Cyber Security Awareness Month was created as a collaborative effort between government and industry to ensure every American has the resources they need to stay safer and more secure online. 2017 marks the 14th year of National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Visit staysafeonline.org to learn more about National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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