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Experts Encourage Cyber Smarts to Ward off Hackers

By Sylvia Carignan

Kyle Hanslovan, Huntress Labs, and T.J. Rainsford, designDATA, give presentation at MSMUThe email message on Kyle Hanslovan's screen seemed sketchy — saying he could save money on car insurance by clicking a link — but he clicked on it anyway.

On an adjacent screen, a window with a black background and commands in white and red text showed that a hacker immediately gained access to Hanslovan's computer, including his passwords, his data, his software and everything he typed.

Actually, the scenario was a demonstration set up by Hanslovan, who was the hacker and the unsuspecting victim, for a talk Tuesday evening at Mount St. Mary's University's Frederick campus.

Hanslovan, founder and chief executive officer of Huntress Labs, and T.J. Rainsford, vice president and chief information officer of designDATA, talked to a handful of attendees.

The presentation, titled "Who Owns You," showed them how easy it can be for hackers to gain access to personal data stored in email accounts and personal computers.

"Everything we do is tied to our digital identities, whether or not we realize it," Rainsford said.

Information people share on social media can become a liability, he said.

"It’s a little bit frightening how that information can be very easily maintained and used to attack other aspects of your digital identity," Rainsford said.

Hanslovan spent a decade supporting cyber efforts at Fort Meade. The company he founded helps customers quickly identify whether their security has been breached.

In the demonstration, he showed that hackers can retain access to a breached computer, even if the victim closes out of the internet browser or turns the computer off.

"You may have a firewall, you may have all that technology, but the hackers are using that same technology and leveraging it," Rainsford said.

Protecting yourself from attacks means using long passwords that are difficult to guess, refraining from user names that contain your name and using different log-in details for each site or service.

"When you come across sites that allow for lax security ... we as consumers can choose not to use that because it might lead to identity theft," Rainsford said.

Rainsford and Hanslovan said education is a large component of security. When users are more educated about the way they use online services, they can be safer.

"There’s more value that we get from the internet than there is the potential of having our identity stolen," Rainsford said.

* Staff photo: Sam Yu
Kyle Hanslovan, left, founder and CEO of Huntress Labs, and T.J. Rainsford, vice president and CIO of designDATA, prepare to give a talk on cybersecurity titles" Who Owns You?" at the Mount St. Mary's Frederick Campus.

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