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Date: Tue, Oct 6th, 2020

Great Falls College's cybersecurity program offers tips for Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Cheryl Simpson, computer technology faculty member at Great Falls College MSU, said, “You don’t have to be terrified and you don’t have to go hide in a bunker, but you do need to be aware of the threats out there,”

GREAT FALLS, Mont. – A granddaughter is arrested on a trip to Kenya and emails that she needs $1,000 for legal help.

Your boss sends you an email that just doesn't quite sound like something she would say and asks you to click a survey link.

A social media post asking what Disney princess you would mostly likely be asks a series of questions such as your middle name and your high school mascot.

These everyday scams can lead to months-long nightmares that can cost you thousands and thousands of dollars.

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and Great Falls College MSU's computer technology department is taking part to raise awareness in this increasingly important field.

"You don't have to be terrified, and you don't have to go hide in a bunker, but you do need to be aware of the threats out there," said Cheryl Simpson, Great Falls College computer technology faculty member.

Great Falls College offers a one-year online certificate program and a two-year associate's degree that prepares students for high-wage, high-demand cybersecurity jobs. The college's computer technology programs are designated a Center of Academic Excellence by the Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency. Missoula College is the only other school in Montana with the rare designation.

"Security is built into everything we do in all our classes," Simpson said.

The Cybersecurity

 and Infrastructure Security Agency and the National Cyber Security Alliance have teamed up to build weekly themes throughout October and have developed material on its website for folks to use to become more aware of cybersecurity.

Great Falls College will be sharing social media posts from the campaign on Tuesdays throughout October and sharing some of the tip sheets on Thursdays for the rest of October.

For now, Steve Robinett, the computer technology program director at Great Falls College who worked for more than 20 years in the Washington Beltway with defense contractors before coming to Montana, and Simpson have a few simple tips.

"It is more important almost each day to keep your eye out for suspicious activity," Robinett said. "Criminals are getting more sophisticated all of the time, and users need to be sophisticated on what kinds of attacks that can be done."

Five tips

Public WiFi: "It's fine to surf news sites and social media at Starbucks, but you don't want pay your credit card bill or do online banking on public WiFi," Simpson said. "You can't be 100 percent sure of the security. You want to be on a secure network when you do those things."

Emails that don't feel right: "A favorite is for someone to send you an email from what looks like someone you know, but it's not. If it doesn't feel right, hover over the person's name in your inbox and it will show you who actually sent the email. Delete anything that feels off," Robinett said.

Social media: "We all see those fun, little quizzes that ask silly questions about you," Simpson said. "They aren't innocent. The questions are very intentionally about your identity. They are trying to figure out your birthday or your mom's maiden name or other things about your past." And Robinett warned about the geocoding that your phone's camera includes that can be detected on social media, alerting strangers to the school your daughter attends or that you are on vacation overseas. "Make your posts private and don't friend people you don't know," Simpson said.

Password manager: "There are severe all see those fun, little quizzes that ask silly questions about you," Simpson said. "They aren't innocent. The questions are very intentionally about your identity. They are trying to figure out your birthday or your mom's maiden name or other things about your past." And Robinett warned about the geocoding that your phone's camera includes that can be detected on social media, alerting strangers to the school your daughter attends or that you are on vacation overseas. "Make your posts private and don't friend people you don't know," Simpson said.

al free password managers (he recommends www.lastpass.com and www.dashlane.com) out there, and you should be using them," Robinett said. He also stressed the importance of two-factor authentication, in which you are texted or emailed a code to enter a site. He said it can seem like an inconvenience but could really be a savior. "It seems like a hassle, but for a very small amount of effort, it's big for security, especially if you are going to a financial site. Everybody has a smartphone, and it's literally a 10-second drill."

Router: "Make sure you are not using the default password that came with your router," Simspon said. "Anyone driving by on the street can access it."

The weekly themes for Cybersecurity Awareness Month are:
Week of Oct. 5: If You Connect It, Protect It
Week of Oct. 12: Securing Devices at Home and Work
Week of Oct. 19: Securing Internet-Connected Devices in Healthcare
Week of Oct. 26: The Future of Connected Devices


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Record Number: 705


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