By James Elste
Hacked emails, a cyberattack that shut down internet service on the East Coast and a breach of 500 million user accounts — these are all examples of cyberattacks that have made headline news in recent weeks. Awareness of a global, chronic cyber problem is growing and becoming more troubling in the eyes of the public. Rather than writing another alarming article about the threat of cyberattacks, we need to ask a more important question: What do we do about it?
The Nevada Cyber Club, an ASUN student organization sponsored by the College of Business, thinks they have an answer. They are treating the cyber problem as a public health crisis by organizing “cyber clinics” and training to become “cybermedics.”
For hundreds of years, universities around the world have responded to the problem of public health by organizing into medical schools and teaching hospitals. Similarly, organizing the educational and research capabilities of a university into a “cyber teaching hospital” demonstrates a proven model for responding to a complex problem, producing highly trained experts conducting research into a relatively new field of study — cybersecurity.
The Nevada Cyber Club students, using the concept of a cyber teaching hospital as the organizing principle, are initially focusing on the problem of individual cyberhygiene. Just as washing your hands is good hygiene, certain cyber practices help protect against cyber problems. Improving cyberhygiene, just like washing hands, is good for the individual and the community.
Researching good cybersecurity practices to develop cyber clinic guidance, then training to deliver the approved guidance to individuals in a cyber clinic setting provides students with an immersive learning experience. The purpose is clear: Develop student expertise, so they can help individuals and organizations improve their cybersecurity through improving cyberhygiene.
The “patients” in the cyber clinic start at the “triage” station, which assesses their current level of knowledge and identifies any potential cyber problems. After triage, they then receive individualized guidance, according to their knowledge level, on good cybersecurity practices that will help protect their identity, data and devices. For example, we recommend the use of passphrases, which are more secure and easier to remember than a regular password — “ThisIsAnExampleOfAPassphrase.”
The club held the first cyber clinic in September at the Reno Air Races. The second cyber clinic, held at the university in October, focused specifically on providing guidance to fellow students and faculty. After the impressive results of the first two cyber clinics, the Nevada Cyber Club has been invited to provide a cyber clinic for state employees in December.
Want to see a cybermedic? Want to organize a cyber clinic for your organization? Find out more by visiting the Nevada Cyber Club website: nevadacyberclub.com
James Elste is the co-director of the UNR Cyber Security Center and lecturer on Information Systems in the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno.