During a recent visit to the university, Attorney General William Tong spoke to faculty and students, discussing the importance of cybersecurity and data privacy, as well as the fight against cybercrime. He also had the opportunity to learn about how the University is preparing students to become the next generation of leaders in addressing these critical issues.
November 15, 2022
Vahid Behzadan, Doctor of Technical Sciences, as an engineer, is interested in how things work. But, he says, he’s also interested in how things break. His work partly explores how cyber systems can be vulnerable.
Dr. Behzadan was recently part of a group of engineers and criminal justice educators who welcomed Connecticut Attorney General William Tong to the university. It was an opportunity for Tonga to learn about how the University prepares students to tackle cybercrime and the important work being done.
“Our students study hacking techniques to understand what hackers are capable of,” explained Dr. Behzadan, associate professor of data science and founder and director of the university’s Secure and Assured Intelligent Learning (SAIL) research group. “In this way, they can help prevent cybercrime. In terms of research, we have a number of laboratories working at the cutting edge. My SAIL lab works on AI safety and security. The smarter the cyber-ecosystem becomes – driverless cars, etc. – the more vulnerable it becomes.”
As part of his visit to the university, Tong addressed a group of cybersecurity and criminal justice students discussing statewide initiatives to combat cybercrime. He explained his own role as attorney general, who enforces laws to stop, prevent and remedy data breaches.
Tong also discussed the various harms and risks that people face online, from stolen personal information to malicious content that users may encounter. Algorithms can send harmful content to users, he explained, and several attorneys general across the country, including Tonga, are now investigating Instagram and TikTok over the issue. Tong believes that companies should be responsible for the content on their platforms.
“Risks and dangers”
Data leaks were a critical part of Tonga’s presentation. They could happen nationally, he said, citing the massive Equifax data breach in 2017, when the private records of nearly 150 million Americans were compromised. He also emphasized the importance of understanding cybercrime risk at the local level, citing a ransomware attack on the town of Plainfield, Connecticut earlier this year.
“State and local governments have a lot of information about us,” Tong said. “Institutions collect and store so much information. Data privacy is closely related to cyber security. Bad actors usually want our personal information because it’s a game for information that can be sold.”
Tong explained to the students that the “political battle” around data is influenced by how personal data is handled. He explained that the European approach to data treats personal data such as name, address and purchasing habits as personal data belonging to an individual. But, he says, in the United States, the approach is completely different.
“Here, because of the growth and success of the technology industry, we treat information as a commodity that can be bought and sold,” he explained. “We are now aware of the risks and dangers.”
“New Frontiers of Cyber Privacy and Data Privacy”
Students also had the opportunity to ask Tong questions, and he learned about how the university is preparing them to fight cybercrime.
Tiffany McLee, MPIA, CAMS, an adjunct professor of investigations who teaches courses on money laundering and financial crime investigations, says the university’s curriculum equips students with the analytical, research and technical skills to identify, understand and, after all, , connect them with financial crimes.
“What’s often missing from the courses you see at other universities is the fact that everyone is looking at cyber security separately from financial crime investigations,” explained Professor McLee, Fraud Threat Intelligence Manager for the Cyber Fraud Analysis Center at Ally Financial. “They don’t realize that there is a relationship between cyber security and financial crime because most criminals are financially motivated. We should be able to understand this connection.”
Following the discussion, Tong met with students and faculty at the university’s Samuel S. Bergami Jr. Center for Cybersecurity. He interacted with students while attending a demonstration in a cyber-computer class. Tong says that taking cybersecurity and data privacy seriously is more important than ever, and that the next generation of professionals is ready to tackle these challenges.
“There’s so much happening online and with such frequency and volume that it’s easy to lose sight of it all,” he said. “It can be hard to track. The new frontier of cyber and data privacy is a challenge for all of us.”