The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday January 30th

Obama zeroes in on cyber security

UNC information technology specialists say Obama's plan will help online safety.

The president’s proposal included plans to promote information sharing between the private and public sectors. Chris Kielt, UNC’s vice chancellor for information technology, said he thinks pooling resources about potential hacks will benefit the American people.

“Bringing together government and some of the commercial sectors and non-profit sectors would help defend against cyber security threats,” Kielt said.

He said it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with cybersecurity.

“It is a fast-moving space,” he said. “There’s no question that this is a bit of an arms race these days in the security state.”

Obama’s proposal also included plans for improving how security breaches are reported and helping police better investigate cyber crime.

One specific piece of legislation proposed would target K-12 students’ data security and ensure that data collected in educational settings would be used solely for educational purposes, as well as preventing companies from using that data to target advertising toward students.

Holly Benton, UNC’s interim chief privacy officer, said the University does a good job of protecting information — but individuals have their own responsibilities to protect sensitive information.

“One of the things that’s great about the presidential focus here is it gives a national landscape in terms of, what do each of us have in terms of to protect and safeguard individually identifiable information,” she said.

Not everyone at UNC agrees with the way sensitive information is handled at the University. Winston Howes, a senior at UNC, exposed security issues at the University more than a year ago — and he said that most of the issues have yet to be fixed.

“I’ve identified security holes in UNC’s systems, which would allow someone to access anyone else’s financial information or grade information,” Howes said. “I’ve reported it to the University and very few of them have been fixed.”

Howes said cybersecurity is imperative, both at the university level and worldwide.

“The Internet has turned into one of our primary mechanisms of communication. And as soon as that loses its integrity, you start losing trust between individuals and between organizations,” he said. “If you take data security away from the Internet, then the Internet cannot function from an economic standpoint or a social standpoint.”

As far as the proposal, Kielt said it remains to be seen whether or not it will be effective, but Obama is on the right track.

“The initial take on all of this is very positive, but of course the devil will be in the details about how this all this plays out and how it’s done.”


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