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Taking online precautions keeps accounts secure

Published October 3, 2019

It’s a recurring cycle: A major data breach exposes sensitive information of thousands (sometimes millions) of people, the public reacts, there’s usually some sort of hearing and eventual lawsuit, things quiet down. Repeat.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month is an event created by the Department of Homeland Security in order to remind United States citizens on how to keep online information secure. Cal State Long Beach Chair of Computer Engineering & Computer Science Dr. Mehrdad Aliasgari also works to help teach preventative measures through the cyber security applications minor degree that he helped create.

“The courses were designed so that anyone can take them and learn about cyber security. All the math and programming has been taken out of it,” Aliasgari said, explaining that having a skillset in cyber security will make job applicants stand out.

Why suggest the six-course minor to an English major? The answer is simple: The more people rely on online systems for everyday use (from social media to healthcare), the more they need to keep them secure.

“If we don’t prevent it, then we are at the mercy of how and when we detect malicious activity,” Dr. Aliasgari said, adding that it’s impossible to prevent everything. “Attacks change forms. It’s a never-ending game. So we have to learn how to detect as early as possible to react and recover on time.”

Aliasgari currently is part of a task force assigned by the State of California to create curriculum for a B.S. in Cyber Security that could be offered at California State Universities. He one day hopes cyber security will become a required course for general education requirements, or better yet, mandated in grade schools.

In the meantime, there are ways students and faculty at Cal State Long Beach can take precaution when using the internet for school, work or socializing:

Don’t Trust Anything

This is Aliasgari’s number one rule. Albeit slightly cynical sounding, it’s a reminder to question every email, website, account or company that might ask for personal information. This rule also applies to certain news websites and deepfake videos that circulate bad information on social media.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication

To better ensure that the only person who has access to your accounts is you, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies suggests doubling up on your login process. Multi-factor authentication can be used for email, banking, social media, paying bills and other services that require a login.

Be Social, But Be Careful

Social media is a great tool to stay connected with friends, family, colleagues and peers. However, information shared on these platforms can be easily compromised. Avoid sharing on social media your social security number, campus ID, account numbers, passwords, full name, address, birthday and location. Criminals can use these details to target you or others in your circle.

Treat Business and School Information as Personal Information

The accounts and information that you use at work or for school should be treated the same as your own personal data. If an unknown party or unsecure network asks for the login information you use for MyCSULB Student Center, BeachBoard, or even just your campus ID, don’t offer it.

Don’t Take the Bait

Phishing scams are rampant, and the people behind them are only getting more clever. If an email coming from a friend or colleague is asking for sensitive information, reach out to them via phone call or text to make sure it is real.

Cal State Long Beach will never ask students, faculty or staff to provide sensitive information via email. If you receive an email from the campus or from a university account asking for any personal information, or the information of others, disregard it.

Password Advice

The National Institute of Standards and Technology advises to use the longest password permissible. Using a password like a news headline or even a book title with punctuation and capitalization could make the password the length it needs to be. A password manager, which is an encrypted platform that can store unique passwords used for different accounts, can help manage the longer passcodes.