GREAT FALLS — To mark National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Great Falls College-MSU is offering free "cyber checks" this week through Halloween.
People can bring their electronic devices to the Atrium at the college (2100 16th Avenue South) between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. through Thursday, October 31st, and students and faculty in the Computer Technology department will conduct security checks to see if the devices are secure and make recommendations on how to increase security. The cyber checks will include a scan with an antivirus checker that is separate from your computer, tablet, or other device, and only takes a couple minutes.
“We used to be called the College of Technology. We are a technology-based school,” said Student Body President Julius Scott. “With the future being technology, we can’t get away from it. With this event, with National Cybersecurity Awareness, so long as we have these internet connections and we constantly rely on then, we need to give people the tools necessary to protect their devices.”
Both Scott and Computer Technology Department Chair Chris Mee emphasized the use of caution when browsing the web. Public Wi-Fi networks and questionable websites and links are often the main culprits behind hackers, scammers and viruses getting onto your computer.
“The first thing I would tell them is just be careful of our internet,” said Scott. “The internet connection here is an open Wi-Fi network, no password or anything. So, anyone can get into there and potentially get into your computer and steal all your data. The first thing I would do is, on public Wi-Fi networks, do not so any personal stuff that’s important to you. So, you’re bank account information, your credit card statements. Anything that is important and could potentially be useful to steal your identity, don’t so that. That’s the first tip is just be careful of public networks, be careful of our network.”
If you think that you’ve been hacked or that your device may have contracted a virus, the first thing you should do is disconnect from the internet immediately. If you maintain a connection with a malicious site or webpage, your private information could be at even more risk.
“I heard that we jumped over like 75 percent, just from 2011, of the connected Wi-Fi networks we have,” Scott said. “People have like thirty devices connected to their one home at one time. Technology is the future, and so long as we are using technology it is important for everyone to be aware of what can happen when you’re using these devices, what could potentially happen and ways to safeguard that. Because, at the end of the day, no one is 100 percent safe from anything. Whether you’re outside or on your computer.
This is the first time that the college has hosted such an event, but they’re hoping to make it an annual tradition every October.
For more information, call the school at 406.771.4377.