Cybersecurity Awareness Month reminds us to make information security a priority

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month—the perfect reminder to be vigilant in protecting your personal data as well as university data. UT’s Information Security Office (ISO) provides information and tips that members of the campus community can refer to all year. Chief Information Security Officer Cam Beasley emphasizes the importance of everyone in the university community doing their part.

“Everyone on campus has some responsibility to ensure the privacy and accuracy of UT data and of the university’s information resources," Beasley said. "The UT Information Security Office can’t do this massive job alone and relies on the due diligence and vigilance of our campus colleagues to keep our university safe."

Beasley recommends that individuals follow the guidance in ISO’s Top-10-List, summarized below, for their own security.

  1. Maintain updates. Updating devices and software is an essential step toward securing yourself from malicious activity. These updates often address security flaws as well as stability and usability issues. Visit ISO’s section on Updating for resources and information on how to protect yourself with updates.
  2. Use anti-malware software. Anti-Malware software is an effective defense against malicious programs that could damage or disrupt your system, or gain unauthorized access. Visit ISO’s Malware section for more information.
  3. Use encryption wherever possible. Encryption for devices and systems is increasingly available and easy to configure. Using encryption wherever possible helps you protect your privacy and the confidentiality of your data. Visit ISO’s webpage on Privacy for more information and resources.
  4. Use a password manager. Password managers generate unique strong passwords for sites and services and provide a method for securely storing those passwords. Read ISO’s article on Passwords for more information and resources.
  5. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication. The university uses Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), and you can, too, as another layer of defense that you should use wherever possible for your personal information. Many services make Two or Multi-Factor authentication an option. Visit ISO’s section on Passwords to explore further.
  6. Do not log in as administrator. Logging in to your computer with an administrator account makes it possible for malicious software to install itself or change settings without you noticing. Read ISO’s article on How to Not Login as Administrator (and still get your job done) for more information.
  7. Schedule regular backups. Running a backup regularly and storing it in a secure location will help you recover from disaster or malware with your important data intact. Find more information in ISO’s Physical Security section.
  8. Protect your browser. Another way to avoid malware is to use trusted add-ons, plug-ins, or extensions with your browser to block and warn you about unsafe activity. For a list of suggestions, visit ISO’s Privacy section.
  9. Know your devices. Keep an eye on your laptop, tablet, or phone while you are in public to avoid theft. But if your devices are stolen, you can aid in their recovery. See ISO’s Physical Security section for suggestions.
  10. Be vigilant about your privacy. Protect your identity and the identities of those you associate with. Third parties have many ways to gain personally identifiable information about you with and without your consent. Learn some warning signs and tips on protecting your privacy in ISO’s Privacy section.

Members of the campus community can also support the university’s cybersecurity. Some actions to take include:

  1. Doing your part to improve inventory management. Campus inventory data is used for a variety of cybersecurity activities.
  2. Getting off utguest Wi-Fi and on utexas Wi-Fi. The utguest Wi-Fi network is an open network that easily allows faculty and staff to mistakenly connect while doing UT business. In addition to being more secure, the utexas Wi-Fi is 20 times faster than and lacks the restrictions of utguest. Visit the ITS Wireless Networks (Wi-Fi) webpage for more information.
  3. Logging off of your UT computer when you step away from it. Just as you should protect confidential paper files by putting them away securely, keep the data on your computer safe from being seen by others who should not have access.

All of these actions can also help protect against ransomware attacks. Ransomware is malicious software that holds accounts or systems hostage until the victim agrees to pay a ransom.

"Ransomware events continue to threaten our campus," Beasley said. "In the last year, such attacks have increased by over 150% globally and by over 615% for higher education specifically. Vigilance is key. A rational distrust of unexpected emails, links and so forth can be one of the best defenses you can have."

To raise awareness of cybersecurity, ISO invites members of the campus community to follow UT ISO on social media platforms to participate in a digital scavenger hunt to "recover" the ISO account. Participants will use their cybersecurity skills and clues found during the hunt.For information about the scavenger hunt as well as the consequences of losing your privacy (The World Without Privacy), go to the ISO National Cybersecurity Awareness Month webpage.