Security Awareness

We live in a world that is more connected than ever before. The Internet touches almost all aspects of everyone’s daily life, whether we realize it or not. The Office of Information Technology takes cyberthreats seriously and utilizes a multi-layered approach as protection of its data and technology resources against unauthorized access from untrusted network environments, as well as, malicious attacks from untrusted cyberspace environments. This page is intended to engage and educate you about cybersecurity, and to the best of our ability, provide you with the information needed to stay safe online.

Important Cybersecurity Terms

Cyberthreat

The possibility of a malicious attempt to damage or disrupt a computer network or system.

Spearphising

Spearphishing (or ‘Phishing’) is an attempt made by an individual or group to steal your personal information. They send out e-mails that appear to come from legitimate websites such as eBay, PayPal or other banking institutions. The e-mails state that your information needs to be updated or validated and ask that you enter your username and password, after clicking a link included in the e-mail. Some e-mails will ask that you enter even more information, such as your full name, address, phone number, social security number and credit card number.

Malware

Short for “malicious software,” malware refers to software programs designed to damage or do other unwanted actions on a computer system. Common examples of malware include viruses, worms, Trojan horses and spyware. Viruses, for example, can cause havoc on a computer’s hard drive by deleting files or directory information. Spyware can gather data from a user’s system without the user knowing it. This can include anything from the Web pages a user visits to personal information, such as credit card numbers.

Adware

Adware is a free software that is supported by advertisements. Common adware programs are toolbars that sit on your desktop or work in conjunction with your Web browser. They are free to use, but require you to watch advertisements as long as the programs are open. Most adware is safe to use, but some can serve as spyware, gathering information about you from your hard drive, the Web sites you visit or your keystrokes. Spyware programs can then send the information over the Internet to another computer.

DoS Attack

In a denial-of-service (DoS) attack, an attacker attempts to prevent legitimate users from accessing information or services. By targeting your computer and its network connection, or the computers and network of the sites you are trying to use, an attacker may be able to prevent you from accessing email, websites, online accounts (banking, etc.), or other services that rely on the affected computer.

Ransomware

Ransomware is a form of malware that targets users’ systems and critical data for the purpose of extortion. Ransomware is frequently delivered through spearphising emails. After the user has been blocked from accessing his or her data, the ransomware operator demands a payment. After receiving payment, the ransomware operator usually provides an avenue for the victim to regain access to the system or data. However, paying the ransom does not guarantee the encrypted files will be released.

Summary

These are just a few of the common cyberthreats that we face on a daily basis. While some of us may not experience these types of attacks, it is important that we are reminded that they are real. Unfortunately, there is not a “cure-all” solution for such scams. Therefore, we ask that you remain vigilant in not responding to any email requests asking you to click on any link that appears to be suspicious and/or which asks you for personal and/or financial information. If you are unsure about an email being from a legitimate source, please contact the Office of Information Technology.

If you have any technology related issues, please contact the OIT Helpdesk at (504) 671-5500, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30p.m.