State partners with UC to fight back against cyberattacks

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Gov. Jerry Brown made an executive order Monday to establish a coalition of statewide partners, including the University of California, that would help strengthen the state’s cybersecurity.

The order, along with creating the California Cybersecurity Integration Center, would aim to prevent cyberattacks by creating a multi-agency Cyber Incident Response Team composed of representatives from the FBI, the state’s Chief Information Security Office and the UC system, among others. The team would serve as the state’s primary cyber-threat detection and prevention unit.

The university is currently reviewing its role as outlined in Brown’s order and is considering candidates to represent the university at the integration center, said UC spokesperson Shelly Meron.

“The (university) supports the Governor’s Executive Order to strengthen the state’s defenses against cybersecurity threats,” Meron said in an email. “Everyone in the UC community has a role to play in ensuring the university’s data is safe.”

The university is no stranger to the threat of cyberattacks. In February, UC Berkeley students’ and staff information was at risk during a security breach of the health insurance company Anthem Inc., in which hackers infiltrated a database containing 80 million people’s personal information.

In July, UCLA officials announced that the campus’s hospital system had suffered a months-long cyberattack that put the information of up to 4.5 million people at risk.

According to Meron, the university plans to appoint responsible executives at each campus and within the health systems to organize and drive efforts to improve cybersecurity practices. Chancellors at each campus will also regularly report to UC President Janet Napolitano about cybersecurity issues and their plans to address them.

Napolitano outlined a five-point plan — still being discussed — that addresses governance, risk management, technology updates, strengthening the security environment and systemwide culture change, according to Meron.

Similar efforts are underway on the campus to address risk management for UC Berkeley’s information systems and to secure institutional data and other campus information-technology resources, said campus Chief Information Security Officer Paul Rivers in an annual report in 2014.

UC Berkeley’s Information Security and Policy received multiple reports of phishing emails sent to campus CalMail accounts under the guise of “IST support” that used a technique known as “spear phishing,” or using terms specific to the campus to seem more authentic.

According to campus security, the phishers had asked for CalNet ID passphrases through email, which system administrators would never do.

In December 2014, the campus launched an awareness campaign designed to help staff and faculty better detect phishing in emails.

The Office of the Chief Information Officer sends out a fabricated phishing email once a month to faculty and staff simulating an actual phishing scam so that they can better understand and react to threats when they do arrive.

Contact Elaina Provencio at [email protected].