Riverside Community College District aims to increase cybersecurity initiatives throughout campuses

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Screenshot by John Michael Guerrero
By John Michael Guerrero

There are many cybersecurity vulnerabilities present within the Riverside Community College District that leaves personal devices open to attacks due to the past two years of distance education.

Susanne Ma, director of Informations Technology, infrastructure and systems, gave a presentation March 7 on the importance of cybersecurity within RCCD.

“The tactics (of hackers) attacking servers has shifted to individual devices,” Ma said. “Many colleges have been hit with server shutdowns due to a ransomware attacks recently.”

The presentation began by explaining why internet security is important and how it has evolved since its early roots in the late 1900s.

Hackers originally were focused on attacking corporations or groups of people, but with the onset of the ‘Digital Age,’ individual devices have become a more popular form of attack

Ma elaborated the leading factor behind this shift is the onset of the global pandemic that forced many people to begin working remotely and access college databases from home on personal devices.

All a hacker would need to do is reconnaissance, preliminary survey of a given device to obtain sensitive data, via phishing, keylogging, or denial of service attacks.

To combat this evolution in attacks, RCCD’s IT department has various resources available, both for faculty and students, to help in the event of a suspected attack on a device. 

“We have a system that has an algorithm to break down if an email is a phishing email,” she said.

Ma hopes to minimize the amount of ‘master keys’ available to decrease the likelihood of a hacker using it for malicious intent if someone’s device is successfully hacked into.

Along with providing resources for people to utilize, the IT department has hired threat actors for the district.

These individuals specialize in finding flaws in cyber security networks, allowing RCCD to fix blatant errors and stay one step ahead of hackers.

The IT department ensures that many devices are up to date with security measures and updates.

Faculty are also provided with the ability to self-download RCCD system software without the aid of IT experts. Ma explained in an email that faculty can access vetted software through a secure central software portal.

Monthly meetings regarding cybersecurity awareness are also held to further decrease the chances of a cyberattack on the district.

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