The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

October 19, 2011

Speakers offers insight on cyber security

Close to 100 people converged at Tamarack Tuesday for a symposium on cyber security, hosted by the Southern West Virginia Preparedness Partnership.

The event offered local individuals or businesses an opportunity to learn about cyber threats and ways to protect themselves. Four speakers were on hand to talk about their area of expertise and educate those attending.

Beckley Fire Chief Kevin Taylor, who also serves as co-chair for the SWVPP, explained the importance and relevance of the event.

“Our mission is to better prepare our region for various disasters and although when you think of disasters, you think of flooding, snow storms, etc. Cyber security and cyber threats do not make the list, but according to the Department of Homeland Security, cyber security is the No. 1 economic and national security threat our country considers right now,” Taylor said.

“Cyber security is always a moving target. For that reason, you will never be fully prepared, and you will never have all the protection you need, because every time someone comes up with software, or a program to combat these things, the hackers come up with a new way to access it.”

Tuesday’s classes covered a variety of subjects; Director of Marshall University Forensic Science Center, Terry W. Fenger, Ph.D., presented a class on cyber policies in the workplace.

He said the day’s goal was to spread awareness from not only a technological aspect, but from a policy standpoint as well.

“Every possible and imaginable way a person can break into a system, it’s out there, so it is important to know how to protect yourself and your business,” he said. “Many of the people that are here today are business people who may not be fully aware of how vulnerable these network systems can be, and how easily they can be hacked into.”

Wireless networks are even more vulnerable to intrusion, he warned. Viruses and malware can load onto your computer when using a wireless connection, he said.

“You may have a very secure wired system but when you access it from the outside through an unsecured wireless system, like at Starbucks, there are ways that viruses and malware can enter in through the wireless network,” he said.

“It’s just like the wild west when you get out there on the Internet,” he added.

However, there are ways to protect ones self.

Fenger said by enforcing strict policies in the workplace is one way to help combat the threat of cyber security.

“A lot of protection is based on policy, like not having your employees search the Internet because they could be unknowingly downloading malware into the system which is almost impossible to get rid of,” he said.

Another way to protect yourself is by having a separate thumb drive for each computer you use, he said.

“If you download something from the Internet on your home computer onto your thumb drive, you can load viruses on to your work computer just by using that same thumb drive,” he explained.

Jeremiah Johnson, White Collar Crimes Center computer crimes specialist, offered a course on what one can do to secure your system. 

He stressed the importance of physical security, and said to never leave a computer unattended.

FBI Special Agent Evan C. Patterson instructed a class on social media.

West Virginia University Professor Roy Nutter ended the day with a class about what one must know about getting hacked.

He echoed Johnson’s advice saying physical security is an important aspect of protection.

“If you give me physical access to your machine, I don’t care how many passwords you have on there, if I physically have access to your computer, it’s mine; I could hack it,” he said.

He said educating and training employees is another vital aspect of protection.

“How many times do you get mail and you don’t know who it is from but you click it anyway?” he asked. “It is vital that employees are educated and trained, because knowledge is key.”

He said that computer users need to have a secure network through a router and said to make sure fire walls are in place.

“Make sure you are running the virus checker and make sure you are not hitting the bad sites and only open mail from people you know,” he instructed. “Even if you only do a few of these things, you will help protect yourself more than you know.”

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