Personal accountability key to cybersecurity

Florida A&M student browsing the web
Photo by Vanessa Lawrence

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a collaborative between government and industry to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and to ensure that all Americans have the resources they need to be safer and more secure online.

Earlier this year, almost half a million dollars were transferred out of the city of Tallahassee’s employee payroll fund. It was quickly discovered that the city’s third party payroll vendor was subject to unauthorized access.

City spokeswoman Alison Faris says an investigation was immediately launched and employees were reimbursed. 

“We immediately launched an investigation and began working with forensic experts and the Tallahassee Police Department to determine the nature and scope of this event. In addition, all affected employees were re-issued their direct deposit checks,” Faris said.

Faris said the city has required that their vendor enhance their security protocols to mitigate future risks. The city also implemented internal process changes that related to notifying employees via email whenever changes are made to their information, as well as establishing new requirements on how employees can make changes to their information in the system.

Cyber hacking is an ongoing issue around the world, but Florida A&M’s chief information security officer, Clifford Stokes Jr.’s job is to protect important data assets for the university.

“My primary role is to protect the information data assets of the university such as student records, employee records, and financial records,” Stokes said. 

He advises students to be aware of their vital information to ensure online safety. 

“Stay current with the technology that you’re using, understand the device that you have, make sure that you’re doing updates properly, make sure that you understand the applications you’re using, and make sure that you’re using an anti-virus solution that’s up to date,” said Stokes.

Another step the Office of Technology Services is taking to ensure security safety is providing security awareness training for FAMU faculty and staff that is required.

“Security awareness is one of the big things the Office of Technology Services is responsible for,” Stokes said.

Stokes also says opening the discussion and talking about cybersecurity awareness is beneficial, but not enough to protect yourself and others. 

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2019 emphasizes personal accountability and stresses the importance of taking proactive steps to enhance cybersecurity at home and in the workplace. This year’s overarching message – Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT. – focuses on key areas including citizen privacy, consumer devices, and e-commerce security.