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The threat of cyber-attacks is real, and we are all responsible for staying secure

The Augusta Chronicle logo The Augusta Chronicle 10/25/2021 Heather Roskwoski
Cybercrime is a national security issue, as cybercriminals continually expand their reach in both the public and private sectors. © (Getty Images) Cybercrime is a national security issue, as cybercriminals continually expand their reach in both the public and private sectors.

Dr. Heather Roskwoski is assistant vice president of cybersecurity and chief information security officer at Augusta University. Rodd Arthur is director of cybersecurity operations at Augusta University.

Traditionally, cybersecurity has been primarily an information technology departmental function. An enterprise’s data is stored on computer systems, and IT is responsible for protecting it. While it remains true that many of the security measures used to protect data are IT-based, times have changed. It is the responsibility of everyone within the organization to ensure the privacy and accuracy of information.

At Augusta University and AU Health System, our top priorities are our students, employees and patients, including our responsibility to safeguard personal data and protected health information. Cybercriminals are working hard to break down digital walls and gain access to this information, but we're working even harder.

The biggest risk for universities and health systems like ours is not simply one thing. It’s the constant barrage of threat actors we are seeing, starting last fall with a targeted attack against health care organizations to more recently, an uptick in threats and attacks on institutes of higher learning.

Read more: Colleges a ‘Juicy Target’ for Cyberextortion

The biggest threat we see these days is ransomware. It is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.

Dr Heather Roszkowski © Courtesy photo Dr Heather Roszkowski

It is important to note that cybercriminals are not simply pursuing information from organizations, health systems and colleges/universities, but also from individuals.

They want Social Security numbers, financial information and more; an employee is just as much at risk for their individual information to be compromised. The only difference is hackers know that organizations have deeper pockets.

How can we stay cyber conscious? Here is some advice.

  • Create strong passwords and protect them
  • Be aware: stay up to date on recent phishing and ransomware scams
  • Use multifactor authentication
  • Keep your apps and software current
  • Take caution when downloading software or new applications
  • Back up your data
  • Don’t use public Wi-Fi
  • Trust, but verify – call your peer, supervisor or customer if you receive a questionable email

We and AU's Cyber Defense Department are working 24/7 to ensure university and health system employees have the training and tools needed to identify suspicious activity and reduce the chance of cyber threats. This includes mandatory bi-annual cybersecurity training, periodic email phishing campaigns, as well as timely cybersecurity-related communications to the workforce regarding current threats to the AU/AUHS environment.

One of the struggles many organizations face when it comes to protecting their people and data is simply budget.

More on ransomware: What to do if hit by an attack

Cybersecurity solutions are costly, and many organizations find it challenging to find money within an already tight budget. It is essential to do what you can to protect information from outside threat actors, or it could cost a lot more in the end, including financial loss, reputation damage and the loss of public trust, to name a few.

Connectivity is now a part of everyday life, and data is literally at our fingertips. However, with the extensive use of smartphones, tablets, laptops and more also comes risk and responsibility.

Rodd Arthur © Courtesy photo Rodd Arthur

As we mark Cybersecurity Awareness Month in October, it’s important to remember cybersecurity is everyone's responsibility. We must all work hand in hand to protect our personal information and the information of the organization(s) we serve.

When Arthur worked for the Department of Defense, they had a saying that holds true today: "The United States is the most interconnected country in the world, which makes us the most vulnerable country in the world.”

This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: The threat of cyber-attacks is real, and we are all responsible for staying secure

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