Criminals often target colleges for cyberattacks, and DeRionne P. Pollard shares lessons her institution learned firsthand in hopes of helping others prevent or respond to one.
The first things you will notice when entering Montgomery College’s Cybersecurity Center and Lab are the large video panels around the room that show a steady stream of cyberattacks represented by lines connecting attackers and targets on a world map. The displays show known cyberattacks, which are instantly blocked. It can be mesmerizing just watching the map’s activity, with attacks touching almost every part of the world, until you remember that each is an attempt to commit theft, fraud or another crime.
The scope of the global attack is sobering to think about, and I am thankful for the cybersecurity professionals who work to protect us all. Many of the students who train in our lab will become cybersecurity pros themselves. Some come to us to enhance their existing skills and go on to the thousands of available computer and cybersecurity career opportunities in government and industry. We need every one of them.
Of course, these criminal endeavors never stop. Despite our diligent focus on security and protecting our assets, in September of 2019 Montgomery College fell victim to an internet fraud committed by criminals outside the college. They stole funds totaling $2.8 million by routing them to a fraudulent bank account. The fraud was discovered quickly, and we took immediate steps to recover the funds. We have recovered 39 percent, resulting in a net loss of $1.7 million. A year later, we remain hopeful yet realistic about the possibility of recovering more of the stolen money.