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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Cyber Security expert: 2016 election hacking incident teaches a lesson

By Noell Saunders

There's been a lot of buzz recently in the media about the 2016 election, specifically, the alleged Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee's servers and the release of secret information through private emails and chat exchanges which has now opened a new can of worms in the cyber security world.

Hongyi Wu, director Old Dominion University's Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research, said this type of incident is not just a lesson for politicians to learn from but for anyone who uses a computer or any device that transfers and receives information.

"I think what we learned is that promotion of cyber awareness is really important. From the technology side, it's not enough to just rely on traditional practices like making sure we have updated software and anti-virus protection," Wu said. "There's no absolute secure system, not even a government agency. We need to go deeper."

The Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research is taking its program a step further by offering a new introductory cyber security course for ODU students. The new course, CYSE 100 (Cyber Hygiene and University Orientation), will only be offered during the fall semesters. It will provide students with information about college success strategies and insight into basic cyber hygiene, or small practices to follow for protection. The course will start in the 2017 fall semester.

"This course will make cyber concepts general enough so that all majors will find the material to be valuable," Wu said.

Hacking is a complex issue that can involve several factors. In most companies, it takes about six months on average to find out that a system was hacked. The cause could be a variety of reasons from phishing, to a failed computer system or simple carelessness of safeguarding information. Wu says technology is not always the blame for cyber security problems. Human error plays a major role in vulnerability.

"For example, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton started to use a personal computer and a personal email account it really made it easier for hackers to get in the system," he said.

While the 2016 election hacking incident is nothing to celebrate, Wu noted that its publicity has triggered more awareness.

For more information, visit the Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research website.