Cyber security becomes a more pressing issue at UT

Wynne Davis

The number of cyber attacks targeted at the University’s resources has been steadily increasing over the past few years, in keeping with a national trend, according to Cam Beasley, Information Technology Services’ chief information security officer.

“More targeted attacks against high-value research labs and researchers have likely been one of the biggest growth areas [in terms of attempted security breaches],” Beasley said.

Millions of attempts are directed daily at the campus network, which contains more than 120,000 devices, Beasley said. 

More than 185 ITS units on campus work to keep hackers out of the systems. 

“These teams focus on managing and patching systems, maintaining strong local firewalls, identifying and protecting sensitive data and responding to our incident notifications,” Beasley said.

Beasely said the fight to secure campus defenses against hackers is an ever-evolving arms race.

“The bad guys are constantly modifying their attacks to target information that has financial value,” Beasley said. “They are generally in the business of profiting from their victims one way or another, and the good guys are trying to strengthen and mature their toolsets so that they can proactively defend the campus.”

Matt Dodson, a computer science and mechanical engineering senior, said he sees cyber security playing a bigger role in society. 

“We’re transitioning more and more data to online forms every year: bank payments, job applications, private communications, and we want all of these things to stay safe and secure,” Dodson said.

As cyber security becomes a more prevalent issue, the Information Security Office has worked closely with student organizations, including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Communication Society, Beasley said. 

Electrical engineering junior Richard Penshorn, the corporate officer for the society, said members learn hacking techniques and attack mitigation. Penshorn said anyone who uses technology should be aware of risks inherent in cyber security.

“In reality, every day should be a reminder that modern society [relies] on technology,” Penshorn said. “It is that technology which possesses the greatest risk to our privacy, modern living and security.”

With the growing number of privacy concerns, ITS has resources online for students looking to further protect their identity, Beasely said. 

“In an age where individuals freely offer up their personal information to the greater internet community, it is important for folks to understand that there is an intrinsic value to the various forms of one’s online identity,” Beasley said. “Ultimately, vigilance is key to protecting oneself and you can practice it without becoming a conspiracy theorist.”