STARKVILLE, Miss.--One of Mississippi's top cybersecurity officials delivered a sober warning to a Mississippi State University audience recently.
Social media accounts, even when set to "private," can be accessed, he said.
"Human resources offices now pay people to go look at your Facebook account; there's always workarounds to your settings," said J. Robert Mahaffey, the cybersecurity director of the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security.
"If they find a pic posted of you and you're wearing the sombrero, it's your 19th birthday and you've got a gallon of margaritas, you might not get that job," the 20-year law enforcement veteran said.
Mahaffey's presentation in Colvard Student Union last week opened MSU's annual Cybersecurity Awareness Week.
Turnout was excellent at Mahaffey's talk, as well as all of the other presentations, said Tom Ritter, security and compliance officer for MSU's Office of the Chief Information Officer.
"The goal of Cybersecurity Awareness Week was to educate the campus community about important issues in computer and information security and make sure that everyone is aware of the ongoing sophisticated phishing attacks that are being used against us all," he said.
The land-grant institution hosts the multi-day awareness campaign every fall; learn more at http://www.infosecurity.msstate.edu/csa/.
According to Mahaffey, online dangers abound.
Among them are the malicious actors planning terrorist attacks using online maps, blogs, social media or any other easily accessible info. Additionally, phishing attacks and computer viruses continue to plague users, he said.
Mahaffey advised attendees to back up their data regularly, to beware of sharing personal information at any site and to report cybercrime.
He emphasized that if a cellphone's GPS is active, phone pictures record and display the location. To be safer, he said, turn off the GPS.
Also an FBI National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force officer, Mahaffey said he primarily investigates criminal cybercrime and teaches security awareness.
"I teach security awareness to protect the infrastructure, and on a daily basis, I liaison and work with cyber IT (information technology) professionals to protect infrastructure," he said.
"But opportunities for criminal activity are very available because everyone has their own device," Mahaffey said.
If a person is victimized by a cyberattack, many websites and organizations are available to report the incident, Mahaffey said. Among them are the Internet Crime Complaint Center, at http://www.ic3.gov/, and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, at http://msisac.cisecurity.org/.
The National Security Agency and the U.S. Cyber Command have designated MSU as a Center of Academic Excellence in three disciplines: cyber operations, information assurance education and information assurance research. MSU is the only institution of higher education in the state to attain these three designations. The university's cybersecurity capabilities include three research centers: the Center for Computer Security Research, the National Forensics Training Center and the Critical Infrastructure Protection Center.