University Business May 2018 - 52

PROFESSIONAL OPINION

Teach your campus to
ignore the cyberbait
Mock phishing emails boost security by showing everyone what hacking attempts look like
By Meghan Hollowell

I

t's no secret that insufficient cybersecurity is a concern on the minds
of many in higher education. From
IT support staff to upper-level administration, everyone wants to protect student data from the hackers who hope
to pilfer it.
In the March UB "On Topic
Q&A," security and risk consultant
Joanne Martin indicated that students
and faculty should be made aware of
the seriousness of cybersecurity threats.
She suggested "fake emails" should be
sent to students to gauge their response
to phishing attempts.
The Christ College of Nursing and
Health Sciences has subscribed to this
practice for two years, and resulting
data suggests it did increase awareness.
Uncovering the problem
In August 2016, a vendor-generated
mock phishing email was sent to 873 of
our students, faculty and staff (90 percent of the total population), prompting them to click on a link to change
their password. Some 142 people
"failed" by either clicking on the link
and/or submitting a new password.
After that first test, the Educational
Technology Department launched an
aggressive campaign to educate our
community about the risks associated
with phishing emails. Messages were
carefully crafted and disseminated by
way of the college's most visible and

UBmag.me/ignore

52 | May 2018

well-received channels-digital signage
and our Blackboard LMS. Messages
focused specifically on the threats associated with phishing, reminding our
users that they should not respond to
emails requesting sensitive data such as
passwords.

Students need to
understand how
frequently they will
be baited for
their access to patient
health information.
Additionally, the Ed Tech staff
began offering a consistent schedule
of hourlong cybersecurity workshops
that offered incentives for attendance.
Workshop topics included phishing,
identity theft, password security, malware, virus protection, and safe use of
public Wi-Fi and social media.
A lot less failure
Approximately three months after the
first mock phishing email was sent and
the campaign was launched, a second
email was sent to 761 students, faculty
and staff. This time, only four people
failed. That's less than 0.5 percent, reduced from a nearly 16 percent failure
rate in the first test.
Those who failed the second test
were contacted by Ed Tech staff regarding the importance of cybersecurity;
they were sent a link to a computerbased cybersecurity training module

and encouraged to attend a workshop.
Since 2016, Ed Tech has ramped up
its efforts to ensure continued awareness of cybersecurity. A cybersecurity
workshop is now included in a mandatory student registration event held
each semester. Students, faculty and
staff must complete an annual safetyand-wellness training that includes
workshop content. The most recent test
of 1,076 users resulted in a 99.5 percent pass rate. The success of campaign
efforts continue to be validated.
Best practices
Others who seek to develop a cybersecurity campaign should consider
the following advice, based on lessons
learned:
* Make training and messaging
relevant. Our students learned how
regularly colleges and health care providers are targeted by phishing emails.
Students need to understand how
frequently they will be baited for their
access to patient health information.
* Look for opportunities to weave
the training content into courses and
orientations, where appropriate.
* Write a cybersecurity awareness
initiative into a departmental or strategic plan to ensure that resources are
dedicated to the effort.
* Track data over time to ensure ongoing effectiveness of training efforts.
* Track users to identify repeat offenders who need extra training.
Meghan Hollowell is dean of college support
services at The Christ College of Nursing and
Health Sciences.
www.universitybusiness.com


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