Cybersecurity: How students can stay safe

Cybersecurity and protecting online data is something the average student may not think about daily. However, being cyber aware today may save a headache down the road. 

With the internet rapidly advancing in the past few decades, there has been an influx of cybersecurity companies. 

“Once the bad guys realized it was an avenue to make lots of money, that’s when the need arose,” Bradley Ammerman, adjunct Computer Information Science faculty and Minnesota State University, Mankato alumnus, stated. 

Ammerman has taught multiple courses in MSU’s CIS department since 2014. 

With hundreds of cyberattacks a day, protecting one’s personal data online can be as important as locking their car.

“One thing I tell my students is, ‘How would you feel if your phone is cryptolocked and you couldn’t gain access to your photos?’ It can be crippling to some,” Ammerman said. “Ransomware is huge. People pay thousands, or millions, to get that information back.”

Ammerman has conducted numerous cybersecurity workshops, interviews and podcasts. He has been in the cybersecurity field for about 10 years and in IT since 2001.

“I’ve had a really good experience being able to educate and find those individuals who are passionate and cater their career and watch them take off,” Ammerman shared.

Being security-minded is an important aspect in protecting one’s identity online.

“There is so much security awareness training available out there. If you’re at least mindful about it, you can implement that not only at work but into your personal life,” Ammerman voiced.

Something as simple as making your passwords more complex is a start to making it harder for criminals to obtain your information.

“Don’t click stuff,” Ammerman said. “That is the best way to protect yourself. If you see links from someone unfamiliar, don’t click them.”

Philip Chervenak, a junior majoring in CIS and minoring in networking information security, agreed.

“Don’t have a password, have a passphrase; it is more complex than a single word,” Chervenak said. “It’s a lot easier to break into someone’s account than you might think.”

Multifactor authentication is another way that can further protect online users’ information. This may involve confirming one’s identity on another device to ensure they are the person responsible for the account.

He also shared another way people can further protect their online accounts. 

“Using a VPN like Norton can change your network locations to anywhere in the world, making it more difficult for those people to ping you,” said Chervenak.

Minnesota State University, Mankato offers various cyber awareness videos and tips to ensure students and faculty have the knowledge to protect their information. MSU also has a cyberaware podcast that shares insight on the current cybersecurity world from experts in the field.

Write to Julia Barton at Julia.Barton@mnsu.edu

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