Keeping FIT Cybersafe

It is not if, but when.

The “it” I am referring to is a malicious cyberattack on FIT’s digital infrastructure—one that does serious damage. That is the prediction of Walter Kerner, our acting Chief Information Security Officer, and it’s one we should take seriously given the most recent worldwide ransomware attack.

Walter came to us a little more than a year ago from a career protecting digital assets and infrastructure in the corporate world. He is FIT’s first chief information security officer. He and Greg Fittinghoff, our acting vice president for Information Technology, as well as everyone on the IT for FIT team, are working diligently to roll out an Information Technology Strategic Plan—an ambitious and forward-looking initiative to improve and reinforce FIT’s cybersecurity for today and for the future. This initiative includes our Cybersafe website, newsflashes on cybersecurity matters, and a wide range of tech awareness activities and training for everyone on campus.

While it is reassuring to know that our IT operation is aggressively plotting protective procedures, Walter has made it clear that FIT is nevertheless no more or less a target than any other institution, and I’m sure it keeps him on high alert.

“We need to get the idea across that someone, somewhere would be only too happy to attack us, for any number of reasons, even to use FIT as a conduit to some other party,” he told me. “This is a real and present danger.”

Human error is a big part of most cyber-crime. Without thinking, we click on unknown links, open messages from unknown parties or get careless with our passwords. And this is true both for older “adapters” and for young people who are “digital natives.”

So a big part of the Cybersafe effort is aimed at teaching us how to protect our information and reduce the risk of attack. And I am glad to report that FIT students—those digital natives—are getting an opportunity to aid in that process.

Walter is working with Loretta Volpe, associate chairperson and professor in the Advertising & Marketing Communication Department, to get students’ help in spreading the Cybersafe message to their peers. This fall, her students will be asked to develop ideas for campus-wide information security awareness campaigns aimed specifically at the student body. One campaign will focus on general cyber awareness and another on cyber bullying—an unfortunate reality for more and more college students. The most effective ideas will be adopted and implemented.

Our students always amaze me with all that they accomplish so I look forward to seeing the Cybersafe campaign they create. And as always, I am grateful that so many members of the community are working to keep the college as safe as possible from the inevitable cyberattacks that keep Walter and our IT for FIT team up at night.