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Information technology department warns students about cloud security

Following incidents of photo leaks and blackmail targeting students across the country, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is taking steps to spread awareness about the dangers of hackers targeting college campuses.

Junior Carlie Erdman said she enjoys the convenience of the cloud, but the lack of security makes her nervous.

“I don’t necessarily feel my files and pictures are secure due to all the hacking I have heard about through media and word of mouth,” Erdman said. “I feel that the idea of the cloud is problematic to start with, and [I] don’t like using it due to the risk it presents.”

UWO Information Security Officer Mark Clements said even though this issue is being acknowledged now, things like this have been going on for a long time.

“It’s not new, and it’s not uncommon,” Clements said. “With these things happening with celebrities right now, people might be more aware of it now, and now might be a good time to remind students of the issue.”

Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Development Art Munin said the increased publicity surrounding this issue was a major factor in alerting students.

“Between those stories and other information coming out, we thought it was important to put this message out for students,” Munin said.

Munin said this is a crime that can affect anyone, but college students are more at risk.

“When we started thinking about putting this message out to students, I even thought about my own social media presence,” Munin said. “It’s real for me just like it is for college students who are a part of this digital generation.”

Clements said more universities are taking similar precautions against these crimes.

“I think hackers see college students as easy targets,” Clements said. “We have so much of our lives online now and so much info that we voluntarily put up; college students are clearly at risk.”

Clements said taking precaution and being secure with accounts is key to avoiding being a target.

“Even if things are taken off a phone, they can still be out there,” Clements said. “We need to make sure that people are aware of what is put out and that they’re securing things that they might not want the public to see.”

Munin said password protection is a simple but important step in being safe from hackers.

“The No.1 way to protect yourself is to use unique passwords and change them every so often,” Munin said. “All of us can get lazy in that regard, but when you lose your vigilance in that way, bad things can happen.”

Erdman said she tries to be safe by changing her passwords and other measures, but it is sometimes difficult to stay diligent.

“I feel like it’s sort of tricky to ensure the safety of my accounts due to the fact that there are so many ways to access my account without my permission or knowledge,” Erdman said. “I’m far from technologically advanced, but I do my best to put in a serious effort to ensure the safety of my accounts.”

Munin said this is the latest of many crimes committed against college students.

“I think higher education is often targeted by a number of people looking to commit illegal activities, and this is a prime example of that,” Munin said. “In the social media age we’re living in now, it’s easy to track people and the ability to figure out things like who their family members are and who their employer is.”

Clements said if a student is targeted, they should not negotiate with the criminal and seek help instead.

“Don’t work with the criminals because it never goes well,” Clements said. “Some of these incidents have led to terrible things, including suicide, so it is important to be safe and know the resources available to help if you are affected.”

Munin said by listening to the criminals, it will only lead to more problems for the victim.

“History shows us that giving into one demand only brings on more,” Munin said. “If this happens to a student, we ask them to please come forward and ask for help.”
Erdman said she would pursue help if it affected her.

“I would definitely seek some sort of help,” Erdman said. “Whether that help were through the police or a trusted adult of some sort. In the three years I’ve attended school here, this is the first time I’ve heard anything about the resources the University provides for that kind of thing… they could have excellent resources, but not promoting those resources is a considerable waste.”

Munin said the University would do anything possible to help students affected by this crime.

“We would want to get legal protection in place, as well as navigating the situation with resources to block materials that would be put out there,” Munin said. “We want folks to get all the care and support that they would need, because this is a traumatic event.”

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Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Information technology department warns students about cloud security