Teaching cybersecurity

The IT Services office is on the fourth floor of Meshel Hall. Photo by Christopher Gillett / The Jambar

By Christopher Gillett

IT Services will be releasing a series of educational videos over the next few months to raise awareness of online safety and internet scams.

The videos will be made by IT Services as short snippets that will teach viewers how to notice and deal with scams and cybersecurity, which will be shared on the Youngstown State University app and posted to the IT Services YouTube channel.

Each video will focus on a particular cybersecurity issue, with the first video about TikTok coming out before the end of the month. 

Rosalyn Donaldson, the director of IT Services, said that students should be aware of how social media apps — especially TikTok — harvest and sell users’ data.

“We find that TikTok has a wide scope of things that it’s asking you for, even things not related to video recording and sharing with your followers,” Donaldson said. “Data is harvested and it becomes a commodity, so when you visit websites … all of the sudden the ads that you see are related to things that you have visited recently.”

Another video will cover the importance of multi-factor authentication, where users are asked to give another piece of validation when signing into an account, such as a texted code. Alongside that, a video will be dedicated to email phishing scams. 

Aaron Merlino, the security engineer for IT Security Services, who watches for phishing scams and suspicious logins, said many scams are trying to gain money or accounts.

“A large majority of the scams are job scams and credential phishing,” Merlino said. “They’re trying to steal money from our students, and credential phishing — trying to take over their accounts, so that way they can go ahead and hit at a larger platform or possibly spread malware through malicious messages.”

The department has been working with Sandra Estok, the CEO of Way2Protect, who went into cybersecurity consulting after her identity was stolen and used to smuggle women into the United States, causing her to be detained by Homeland Security at an airport. 

Estok connected to IT Services through her neighbor, former YSU President Jim Tressel, and gave a TEDx Talk on the issue at the university in 2022.

Alongside consulting on the videos, Estok will speak in them too. Estok said people don’t think about cybersecurity until it affects them.

“Cybersafety, it’s one of those things that we sometimes don’t think about, until we are forced to think about [it], because our identity is stolen … our safety’s been compromised,” Estok said.

Estok also said people should develop simple habits to notice potential scams.

“There’s so many things we can do. We don’t have to feel [like] a victim. There are so many things that every single day we can make progress and we can incorporate simple practices,” Estok said. “You have that choice. You don’t have to answer. You don’t have to click. You don’t have to be that victim. You can choose.”

Some simple habits Estok mentioned include silencing unknown phone calls, updating applications and remembering who has your personal information.

For any questions for IT Security Services on online safety, email [email protected]. Sandra Estok can be found through her website, sandraestok.com, or her Twitter @Way2Protect.