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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Psychology Professor Tackles Poor Cyber Hygiene

By Tiffany Whitfield

Poor hygiene can cause irreparable damage to one's health. The same could be said about poor cyber hygiene, especially in the military - where breaches in cybersecurity could compromise missions.

Jeremiah Still, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Sciences at Old Dominion University, is helping to take on this issue.

He and his doctoral student, Janine Mator, partnered with MI Technical Solutions (MITS), a leader in cybersecurity technology, on a $170,000 grant from the Coastal Virginia (CoVa) Center for Cyber Innovation to develop technology to address cybersecurity issues in the Department of Defense (DoD).

"The lack of connection between behavior and increased cyber vulnerability is not explicitly displayed within systems," Still said. "This lack of visibility can make many users lethargic."

The goal is to increase users' awareness of their cyber risk "to harden our systems against attacks by encouraging protective cyber behaviors, facilitating reporting of suspicious activity improving overall policy compliance," Still said.

Good cyber hygiene impacts our "virtual health" and requires continuous maintenance and timely education, which can be difficult for busy professionals. Although the majority of users know to employ strong passwords and to keep their software up-to-date, other cyber hygiene recommendations are less well known.

"For example, storing passwords in web browsers and using personal information to answer account security questions can expose users to greater cyber risk," Still said.

The ODU-MITS partnership plans to develop technology that offers users timely and specific feedback by way of a Cyber Hygiene Intelligence and Performance (CHIP) system. CHIP will inform users about their impact on broader system security.

"We believe that by identifying risky cyber behavior and educating users on various aspects of cybersecurity in a human-centered process, MITS and ODU will enhance the mid- and long-term, big-picture security program maturity for the DoD," said Rachel Jarvis, project manager at MITS.

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