Online Safety in the Digital Age

By Maria Elliott


October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and cybersecurity is an issue that affects students who spend a lot of time online for schoolwork or social media. 

Students must take the necessary precautions to secure their information online.

The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies defines cybersecurity as “the activity or process, ability or capability, or state whereby information and communications systems and the information contained therein are protected from and/or defended against damage, unauthorized use or modification, or exploitation.”

Christopher Wentz, chief information security officer at Youngstown State University, said one of the most common forms of information breach occurs through unsafe password practices.  

He said students should not use their YSU password for other accounts because if there is a data breach, all accounts associated with that password can be compromised.

Wentz said YSU has an “information security ecosystem,” which includes firewall protection, email protection and anti-virus software. 

All three forms of protection share information with each other as well as pull information from global networks on new scams and suspicious links. Anyone using the internet on campus will be protected from links that one of the systems has already identified as malicious.

“It all talks to one another — it all links in,” Wentz said.

Although there are many systems in place to protect students who access the internet on campus, there are still other ways that they can be at risk online.

Wentz said social media can be dangerous when it comes to sharing personal information online.

Students work on assignments in the computer lab on the first floor of Maag Library. Photo by Maria Elliot/Jambar Contributor

According to Wentz, social media users should be careful about tagging their locations online and be aware of what kind of information might be visible in photo backgrounds.

“There’s a lot of little breadcrumbs that we leave or that we may not think that we include that give the bad guys a lot of good information on you,” he said.

James Yukech, associate vice president and chief information officer at YSU, said the internet is becoming an increasingly dangerous environment.

He said hackers are always coming up with new ways to get access to people’s information, and vigilance is key in online safety.

“The minute that we get smarter than them, they figure out a way to get around our traps,” he said. “It’s an ongoing battle.”

Yukech said YSU plans to implement multifactor authentication in fall 2020. This would require students to access their accounts using a pin number in addition to a password when they sign in from a new device.

He said account protection is extremely important because hackers can access sensitive personal information — including financial records.

“Once your account is compromised, the bad actor can appear as you, and so all the rights that you have become their rights,” Yukech said.

He recommended students look into services such as LifeLock to secure their information online and said they should only perform transactions online when absolutely necessary.

Kriss Schueller, computer science and information systems professor, said security issues can also arise for those interested in the newest technology.

“There’s a section of the public that likes the ‘latest and greatest’ that might not be validated,” he said.

Schueller said he believes children should be taught about online safety from a young age to create more awareness as the internet becomes more and more prominent in daily life.

“One of the biggest divides we have in this country is there are people who know how to use technology and people who don’t,” Schueller said.