By Kat Riddler, Managing Editor

The Equifax data breach affected 143 million Americans from mid-May through July of this year. The cyberattack stole sensitive information like social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and credit report spending habits that could personally identify individuals. This massive attack is why Assistant Professor of Information Systems & Fulbright Scholar, Maurice Dawson Jr., is focused on informing others of the importance of cybersecurity.

Dawson led the discussion “Are We Truly Prepared for the Next Type of Warfare” at The Current’s What’s Current Wednesdays (WCW) event on October 4 from 2 to 3:15 p.m. in Century Room C.

Dawson talked about the misinformation and distraction that facebook creates about different topics. He cited the facebook misinformation disseminated in the 2016 elections with regard to Russia and others. “In the States, we have all this misinformation that is creating crazy divides- most recently about Puerto Rico… With misinformation we get focused on one particular point, we fail to follow what is going on in those political areas.”

To prevent some of the misinformation and attacks, education is needed to train people to stop the attacks. Dawson explained that to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) there are certain tests one is expected to pass after getting a degree in accounting, but cybersecurity is not set up the same way. Susan Mauldin, the person in charge of the Equifax’s data security, has a bachelor’s degree and a Master of Fine Arts in Music Composition from the University of Georgia. There was widespread criticism that there was no cybersecurity in her background, but many places defended that anyone can learn code and cybersecurity is still a young field of study.

Dawson said most of his computer science background was coding but nothing really about security. He explained, “If you look at security, over sixty percent of vulnerability is in application layer which means it is in the software.” He continued to explain malware could be in apps that can even be downloaded in a phone with changed software. He said, “So now you downloaded an app and it allows you to do something nifty with Instagram or something, but the app is actually using your phone to send messages or send information back to wherever the malware is.”

Security is also a problem when there are a number of people who lack concern for security and have access to a network. Dawson used an example that in a NATO environment people have access to several networks, so if one nation or group does not meet minimum requirements it becomes a security issue among several nations. Dawson said, “If someone could get into our system, they could navigate around through our network connectivity. That’s why joint groups become an issue.”

In 2009, the International Organization for Standardization established the ISO 15408 for security properties of IT products. This is primarily used in the government, but there is no security protocol for the private sector. So phones can share information in Air Drop or Bump and share a virus along with the contact, photo, etc.

WCW are monthly forums for faculty and student discussions about current events, co-sponsored by The Current and The New York Times, with support from Community Outreach & Engagement at UMSL. The next WCW is scheduled for November 1 at 2 p.m. in Century Room A and the topic will be Transgender in the Military.