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Panel Tackles Cybersecurity

October 19, 2015
In The News

STORRS — U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney, D-2nd District, said the University of Connecticut was the obvious choice to host a panel discussion on strengthening cybersecurity in the 21st century because of the school’s current and future role in what he termed not only a field of study, but a developing industry.

Courtney brought together a panel of educators and industry leaders for the discussion.

“Cybersecurity is an issue that comes up at just about every committee meeting in Washington,” Courtney said.

High Profile security breaches to businesses like Target have hit the consumer hard, but lawmakers learned they are not immune after a cyber breach at the federal Office of Personnel Management was detected last spring.

“When the OPM database was hacked, members of Congress were subjected to it,” Courtney said.

He said cybersecurity is a real concern in the business sector.

“ I meet with representatives from the community banks each quarter,” Courtney said.”The last time we met, cybersecurity was what everyone wanted to talk about.”

Former undersecretary of technology for the U.S. Commerce Department Phil Bond moderated the panel discussions. He said federal statistics point out that 94 percent of U. S. small businesses have experience some sort of “external threat” from data breaches to phishing scams sent via e-mail.

He said dealing with a security breach could cost a business anywhere from about $ 9,000 to $135,000.

Tim Francis, a vice president at Travelers who serves as the insurance giant’s enterprise lead for cyber insurance, said companies have to do everything they can to prevents a hack, but also have a plan of action if something actually happens.

Jeff Greene the director of North American government affairs for the tech company Semantec proclaimed “all is not lost.” He said the trick from the public and private sector is to develop technology to at least slow down cyber criminals.

“If we can drive up the cost for hackers, it’s a small victory, because it makes things more difficult for them,” he said.

Francis added there is a tendancy for the general public not to engage in the “best practices” in terms of computer operation.

UConn professor Demitry Zhanov was a little more succinct in proclaiming people should avoid doing “stupid things” on their computers.

That led to a discussion on phones and Mac versus Android.

Greene said most hackers went after the Android devices because “the Apple systems are a more controlled environment.” But he also criticized iPhone users for being reckless in their downloading and e-mail viewing because of the invincibility reputation.

The bottom line, he said, is to remember that “these are not really phones, they are computers. When is the last time you made a call on an actual phone?”

Courtney said the trick is to come up with ideas to thwart hackers and then find the resources to study them That’s where UConn comes in.

Michael Accordi, the senior associate dean at UConn’s school of engineering, said UConn has two dedicated centers for cybersecurity research, one mentioned prominently as a $6 million investment on the part of cable TV giant Comcast during the ground-breaking for the new tech park building at UConn this week.

He said as a top cybersecurity research university, UConn is eligible for many federal grants.

Courtney said at “the top” cybersecurity research university, UConn’s programs will not only serve the nation, but create jobs at home directly and indirectly.

“This problem is not going away,” he said. “So we have to be prepared to deal with it and UConn is at the forefront of that research.”