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Mount St. Mary’s University Program Encourages Cyber Vigilance, Security

By Sylvia Carignan

October 4, 2016

One of the cybersecurity concerns explored Tuesday night at Mount St. Mary’s University was why people shouldn’t share their Netflix passwords.

The university’s “Cyber Ethics and Research” panel event was scheduled in October to mark Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

cybersecurity panel

Cybersecurity is not something students often think about, said panelist Megan Devlin, a senior at the university.

“We don’t think about that virtual environment that we live in,” she said.

Mount St. Mary’s University chief transformation officer Simon Blackwell, who attended but did not sit on the panel, helped organize the event. He said he wanted to convey to students that cybersecurity isn’t just a technical issue.

“They, as individuals, have a big role to play in security,” he said.

Professor Lawrence Hoffman, who directs the Mount’s forensic accounting program, explained the concept of cybersecurity.

“I can put locks on my doors at home. In fact, I can put signs up that say, ‘Beware of Dog,’ right? I can put locks on my windows, I lock my car up at night. ... It doesn’t mean that somebody isn’t going to try to break into my house, though,” he said.

Ensuring consumers’ security online is a priority for companies, said panelist and Mount St. Mary’s professor Rebecca Portier, but it’s ultimately up to consumers to protect their information.

“If you’re putting it out there to be abused, that’s on you,” she said.

Panelists and audience members discussed the video streaming service Netflix, which requires a user name and password for access. Devlin noted that students don’t think much of sharing their Netflix passwords to share access to the service.

Blackwell asked audience members to consider their cybersecurity habits.
“It is really hard to break the habit of sharing user names and passwords once you get in it,” he said.

Panelist T.J. Rainsford, vice president and chief information officer of the Gaithersburg-based information technology firm designDATA, said ignorance about cybersecurity is widespread.

“If you don’t even know you have that responsibility, how can I hold you accountable to it?” he said.

But people who work in the industry can change the paradigm, Rainsford said.

Since consumers may compromise user names and passwords by giving them out or using the same details for multiple websites, programmers and engineers can make data more secure by using “multi-factor authentication,” which may require a security check in addition to a user name and password.

“We’ve gotta reinvent how we do network security going forward,” Rainsford said.

In the meantime, panelists asked the audience to set better passwords to protect themselves.

“Most password advice you see out there is actually pretty bad,” said panelist Brian Heinold, who teaches math and computer science classes at the university.

The panelists recommended using long but memorable passwords for each service, changing passwords often and refraining from easily guessed combinations such as names or birthdays.

“And don’t write your passwords down,” Devlin said.

David Scibelli, an adjunct faculty member at the university, was also a panelist. Emmitsburg resident Wendy Walsh moderated the event. Walsh previously served on California’s state cybersecurity task force before moving to Maryland.

* Staff photo: Sam Yu
As part of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a forum, "Cyber Ethics abd Research," was held at Mount St. Mary's University. From left are panel members David Scibelli, Rebecca Portier, T. J. Rainsford, Brian Heinold, Megan Devlin and Lawrence Hoffman.

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