AAMU data breach concerns reinforce need for cyber security | #cybercrime | #infosec

A recent date breach at Alabama A&M has placed the importance of cyber security in the spotlight. (Michael Seale/Hville Blast)

A recent data breach issue at Alabama A&M brought to light an issue that has plagued institutions and organizations more and more throughout the state. Cyber crime is on the rise, and Alabama is a state listed by the FBI as one of the most vulnerable to such crimes.

As well, college students in general are especially vulnerable to these crimes. This highlights the need for increased cyber security.

Students + cyber crime

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College students are especially vulnerable to cyber crime. (Hville Blast)

Since being alerted of students’ personal information being potentially compromised, Alabama A&M University initiated investigations to identify any possible campus-related issues.

The university issued guidance to students to alert AAMU if they believed their personal information had been impacted in any way. The number of students affected by the data breach is still unknown.

This is not a problem or instance exclusive to AAMU in any way. A report by Bank of America says colleges and universities are among the top targets of cyber criminals.

Jay Town, the former U.S. attorney for Northern Alabama, currently is responsible for the development of several of the cyber security platforms at Huntsville cyber security firm Gray Analytics, and says college students and institutions are vulnerable for a number of reasons.

“Unlike professionals, college students have not been trained by cybersecurity professionals and facility security officers as to the perils of poor cyber hygiene. They’ll click on anything. As a result, they are more prone to phishing attacks and hacks.” 

Jay Town, vice president & general counsel for Gray Analytics

Common cyber crimes

Town said typically — like the issue at AAMU — email compromise is the most prevalent of cyber crimes.

“A simple click event, or an employee replying to a spoof email, could jeopardize not only that entire corporate network but also the networks of partner companies or even government customers. Business email compromises result in data exfil, trade secret thefts, or even ransomware attacks. So it’s one cyber crime providing opportunity for another.” 

Jay Town, vice president & general counsel for Gray Analytics

Beefing up cyber security

A report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed Alabama as one of the states most vulnerable to cyber crime. This is due largely to the types of industry here in the state, namely in the Huntsville area.

“Alabama is fortunate to have the industry it does, especially the defense industrial base. Billions of dollars pass through Alabama each year in the design, engineering, and build of our nation’s most vital defense programs. Our enemies, like China, do not invest in R&D like we do. Instead, the invest in economic espionage and theft of IP. They don’t invent it. They steal it. This makes Alabama a target. Thankfully, the industry professionals in Alabama understand this and have some of the most hardened networks in the country.” 

Jay Town, vice president & general counsel for Gray Analytics

So what can companies and organizations do to combat the growing number of cyber crimes? Town said it starts with awareness and training.

“We can build the tallest firewalls, harden our networks with the cyber equivalent of teflon, and yet a simple employee click event can bring down the entire system. Employees and students need to be aware of the threats, common infiltration methods, and how to avoid being a victim. We took great care during the pandemic to exercise great personal hygiene. We need exercise great cyber hygiene going forward.” 

Jay Town, vice president & general counsel for Gray Analytics

Alabama ranks 17th among states most vulnerable to cyber crime, which is better than last year, then the state ranked 6th. Still, as illustrated in the recent breach at AAMU, this is clearly a rising trend in our country.

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National Cyber Security