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School districts often lack large cybersecurity budgets and struggle to convince teachers and students to take proper precautions. Meanwhile, home networks tend to be less secure and less frequently maintained than school networks. Pexels

CANTON — In its inaugural year, the Center for Criminal Justice, Intelligence and Cybersecurity at SUNY Canton is hosting a cybersecurity conference through the end of October, nationally recognized as Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

Launched last year through a $10 million investment over five years, the Center will be housed in Dana Hall, and the virtual conference has already hosted cybersecurity experts working in military and healthcare settings, as well as faculty from SUNY Canton, Connecticut’s Wesleyan University and Ohio’s Kent State University.

“As COVID-19 requires more people to connect virtually, whether it be in education, retail, banking or other industries, cybersecurity is more important than ever,” SUNY Canton cybersecurity Associate Professor Kambiz Ghazinour said.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, a division of the FBI, tracked a sharp increase in cyberattack complaints in the United States at the outset of the global COVID-19 pandemic this spring.

The IC3 reports the average number of daily cybersecurity complaints roughly quadrupled from 1,000 prior to the pandemic to as many as 4,000 by April. During a webinar this spring, Tonya Ugoretz, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, cited a “rapid shift to telework” as an open doorway for hackers to exploit existing cyber vulnerabilities.

SUNY Canton’s conference is designed to educate the public about protection from cybercriminals and how technology can be misused to spread false information.

The conference’s third panel, “The Hackers are Coming! Winning a Cybersecurity War in an Election Year,” is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Oct. 15, and will feature Minhua Wang, SUNY Canton lecturer; Traian Marius Truta, professor and associate chair of the Department of Computer Science at Northern Kentucky University; and Younghun Chae, assistant professor of computer science at Kent State University.

The FBI, National Security Agency, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and National Counterintelligence and Security Center have issued several statements and public service announcements this election year, and the most recent joint statement, issued this week, outlines the agencies’ commitments to protecting the integrity of the 2020 election.

“We’re not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election,” FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said in a video message to voters.

In a Sept. 23 statement from the FBI and CISA, security officials warned “foreign actors” and cybercriminals could create new and alter existing websites to spread false information “in an attempt to discredit the electoral process and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions.”

“Foreign actors and cybercriminals could exploit the time required to certify and announce elections’ results by disseminating disinformation that includes reports of voter suppression, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, voter or ballot fraud, and other problems intended to convince the public of the elections’ illegitimacy,” the statement reads in part.

To register for “Winning a Cybersecurity War in an Election Year,” watch previous panels or view the full conference schedule, visit canton.edu/hacking.

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