Simply Staying Cyber Safe

Katie Keovongphet, Reporter

October marked the beginning of National Cyber Security Awareness month in the United States. With the increasing influence of social media on teens, it supports the idea of bringing a safe and secure online experience to all Americans.

This year’s theme is, “Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.” It focuses on a number of different areas including e-commerce, social media bots and online privacy. 

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 95 percent of teens have access to a smartphone, which is a 22 percent increase since 2014. Unsurprisingly, many of these teens have social media accounts that contain their real name, photos of themselves and other personal information, such as their age and the school they attend. 

“You don’t want to give information away,” technology applications teacher Greg Morrissey said. “People are trying to hack databases, and you want to protect your information. They’ve created devices now that allow bad people to scan your phones if they’re in close proximity. They can get all the information off your phone or a lot of valuable information that you wouldn’t want anybody to have.”

Cyber security attacks aren’t limited to just teens. These attacks can harm anyone that has access to some form of technology, and that even includes casinos. 

In July 2017, CNN published an article with details on a North American casino that was hacked through their Internet-connected fish tank. The hackers managed to get about 10 GB of data sent out to a device in Finland before the casino noticed.

“The more conscious you are, the less likely you are of being hacked,” Morrissey said. People [can] access your social security numbers, your debit and Visa cards, American Express marketing information. Everybody’s trying to get information about you as a person and not always using it in a good manner.”

Since today’s society is largely centered around the use of technology, it can seem difficult to keep yourself safe from possible attacks. 

“As more and more of everybody’s life is involved in the Internet and being online, [how] we conduct our business allows people with malicious intent to try to take advantage and steal our identities,” technology applications teacher Robert Hensley said. “If somebody is able to successfully steal our identity or get our login credentials, they can have access to our financial assets and other sensitive information.”

Fortunately, one of the easiest ways to protect ourselves is through our passwords.

“Protecting yourself from [an] electronic attack, cyber security attacks, those habits begin early,” Hensley said. “We should always choose strong passwords. We should attempt to not repeat the same passwords across multiple websites. This, you might say, becomes a difficult thing to do. However, the risks of not doing that are pretty high, so we should all put in that extra effort to have strong passwords and use different passwords for different sites.”

Moreover, Hensley believes people should be more aware of who they’re communicating with through the Internet. 

“It’s a real thing where people try to trick you using social engineering tactics to fool you into believing you’re communicating with a legitimate entity, when really, you’re communicating with a criminal who’s trying to gain secure information from you so they can log into your accounts,” Hensley said. “Let’s just run down the possibilities.”

“They would be able to apply for credit cards in your name,” Hensley said. “Those credit cards would be issued, and then the criminal could be buying things that go under your credit cards that you didn’t even know you had opened, and then, when they don’t pay the bills, it ruins your credit history. Straightening it out is possible, but it may take years before you get the credit bureaus to agree that it was a cyber attack that caused it.”

Additionally, Hensley addressed the possibility of hackers gaining login information to social media accounts, likely resulting in impersonation. 

“They [might] make postings that make it look like you said things that you didn’t say,” Hensley said. “That would be really infuriating, wouldn’t it? You’d have to tell everybody, ‘No! That wasn’t me!’ but it would look like it was you if they had gained access to your social media [account].”

Over 4.33 billion people have access to the Internet, further emphasizing how users should be careful of how much information they’re allowing the public to see. After all, everything that’s posted on the Internet is permanent, even if it’s been deleted or removed. 

“Trust no one. Everyone’s listening. Everyone’s watching,” Morrissey said.