Experts discuss cybersecurity, password safety


Michael Espinos (right), educational technology specialist and STEM communicator, raises his hand Tuesday during a panel on cybersecurity at the Barsema Alumni and Visitor’s Center.

By Ashley Dwy

DeKALB — To talk about how to protect online users, five experts answered questions from a moderator and the audience 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Barsema Alumni and Visitor Center’s Ballroom.

The event started with a hall reception from 5:30 to 6 p.m. when audience members talked and ate. A little before 6 p.m., they filed into the ballroom to take their seats.

During the panel, Michael Chahino, Chief Information Officer and Executive Director of Network Operations and Information Security at Elgin Community College, described different types of attacks hackers attempt, such as pushing a political agenda, bringing down servers, financial attacks against institutions or individuals and even identity theft.

“There are about 1500 attacks per minute [against our firewall], so it’s constant attack,” Chahino said. “These cyber attackers are well financed and have a lot of resources. We’re always trying to catch up.”

These attacks happen partially because of the common practice of having one password for multiple accounts, Joe Jaruseki, Director of Infrastructure Technology for Naperville School District 203, said. Chahino advised users to set strong passwords.

“Hackers know you use the same password for everything,” Jaruseki said. “That’s why it’s very important to have a difficult password for different accounts.”

Chahino said the cybersecurity panel was there to increase awareness for adults. Children do not understand the how important the internet is in the modern age. The human element of cybersecurity is needing to be more aware of what is put on the internet. He also said nothing ever leaves the internet; nothing is deleted forever.

“You do have access and rights to be on your kids’ accounts,” Jaruseki said. “Their online presence is their digital portrait, and it will follow them in college, in their careers and into the military.”

James O’Hagan, director of digital and virtual learning for the Racine Unified School District in Wisconsin, advised not to limit a child’s screen time too much depending on the living situation of the family involved.

He said that, especially for students who do not feel relevant or connected in school, students are able to feel that sense of relevancy and connectivity when they step into a video game.

“We’re seeing a high crime area, and the parents will not let their kids play outside during the summer and they insist on keeping them inside all of the time,” O’Hagan said. “So, where are they supposed to play? Pew Research data is telling us that 97% of boys and 83% of girls in the teenage range are playing video games.”

During the cybersecurity panel, there were many elements of cyberspace brought up, such as online accounts like email and banking accounts, video games, social media and even online classes were brought up.

Jason Rhode, executive director of extended learning at NIU, said that, even with online classes, people are still leaving a digital footprint.

“If you’re seriously considering an online program, don’t just window shop,” Rhode said. “Request more information and speak to someone about it to really get a sense for what the program consists of, what protections are there, etcetera. There are lots of great opportunities where you can increase your skills and gain credentials that will help you move ahead in your life and your career. Don’t be afraid of online learning.”

Rhode said the internet opens up new ways of learning nowadays that were not possible two decades ago.