Speaker Recommends ‘Cyberhygiene’ to Foil Hackers’ Dirty Work

The crime scene at our fingertips, whether the instrument or the victim of attack

A mix of students, community members and past Colloquia speakers are on hand for Ebersole's instructive talk.

The speaker shows a "ransomware" pop-up, which extorts money from an Internet user facing encryption of computer files. Although the message purports to be from the FBI, Ebersole promised that authorities wouldn't deal so cavalierly with those accessing child pornography. They "won't be emailing you and asking you to pay the paltry sum of $200."

An Internet crimefighter and part-time accounting instructor at Penn College, speaking Tuesday in Klump Academic Center Auditorium, advocated “cyberhygiene” to protect our billions of connected devices – and our personal information – from being compromised. William E. Ebersole delivered the final lecture in the 2016-17 Technology & Society Colloquia Series, “Cyberattacks: The Weapon of Choice of Criminals, Terrorists and Spies.” Recalling the mid-1980s movie, “War Games,” in which a teenager nearly brings about nuclear catastrophe by accidentally accessing a military supercomputer, he said real-life hackers are much more focused, persistent, deliberate and sophisticated. And after several examples of their nefarious handiwork, including a widespread credit-card breach at Target stores and a three-day interruption of electrical and telephone service in Ukraine, Ebersole provided valuable counteractive tips. That advice included using strong passwords and changing them often, limiting what information is posted online, watching for unauthorized devices connected to home networks, being vigilant about children’s web activity, and keeping current on upgrading software and installing security patches. Ebersole had high praise for the college’s information assurance and cyber security curriculum, which he said is helping to feed the growing need for competent technicians. Whatever their major, though, he emphasized that all students can practice safe computing, and he especially urged them to consider the ramifications on viable job-seekers from the Internet’s long-term memory. “Don’t put something crazy on social media to knock you out of the picture,” he said.

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