Connecticut Attorney General Discusses Cybercrime with Students, Faculty
As part of a recent visit to the University, Attorney General William Tong interacted with faculty and students, discussing the importance of cybersecurity and data privacy as well as combatting cybercrime. He also had the opportunity to learn about how the University is preparing students to be the next generation of leaders in addressing these critical issues.
November 15, 2022
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
As an engineer, Vahid Behzadan, Ph.D., is interested in how things work. But, he says, he’s also curious about how things break. His work explores, in part, how cyber systems can be vulnerable.
Dr. Behzadan recently was part of a group of engineering and criminal justice faculty who welcomed Connecticut Attorney General William Tong to the University. It was an opportunity for Tong to learn about how the University is training students to combat cybercrime and about the important work taking place.
“Our students learn hacking methods so that they understand what hackers are capable of,” explained Dr. Behzadan, an assistant professor of data science and founder and director of the University’s Secure and Assured Intelligent Learning (SAIL) research group. “This way, they can help prevent cybercrime. On the research side, we have a number of labs that work on the cutting edge. My lab, SAIL, works on AI security and safety. The more intelligent the cyber ecosystem becomes – self-driving cars, and so on – the more vulnerable it becomes.”
As part of his visit to the University, Tong addressed a group of cybersecurity and criminal justice students, discussing statewide initiatives for addressing cybercrime. He explained his own role as attorney general, enforcing laws to stop, forestall, and remedy data breaches.
Tong also discussed a variety of harms and risks that people face online, from stolen personal information to the harmful content users may encounter. Algorithms can push harmful content to users, he explained, and several attorneys general across the country, including Tong, are now investigating Instagram and TikTok for this. Tong believes companies should be held responsible for the content on their platforms.
‘Risks and hazards’
Data breaches were a critical part of Tong’s presentation. They can happen on a national level, he said, citing the major data breach of Equifax in 2017 in which the private records of nearly 150 million Americans were compromised. He also stressed the importance of understanding cybercrime risk on a more local level, citing a ransomware attack on the town of Plainfield, Conn., earlier this year.
“State and local governments have lots of information on us,” said Tong. “So much information is collected and stored by institutions. Data privacy is closely related to cybersecurity. Bad actors usually want our personal information because it’s a play for information that can be sold.”
Tong explained to students that the “policy battle” around data is impacted by how personal data are treated. He explained that the European approach to data treats personal data, such as an individual’s name, address, and buying habits, as belonging to the individual. But, he says, in the United States, the approach is very different.
“Here, because of the growth and success of the tech industry, we treat information as a commodity to be bought and sold,” he explained. “Now we’re realizing the risks and hazards.”
‘The new frontier of cyber and data privacy’
Students also had the opportunity to ask Tong questions, and he learned about how the University is preparing them to address cybercrime.
Tiffany McLee, MPIA, CAMS, an adjunct professor of investigations who teaches courses in money laundering and financial crime investigations, says the University’s curriculum is providing students with the analytical, investigative, and technical skills to identify emerging cybersecurity threats, understand them, and ultimately, connect them to financial crime.
“What is often missing from the courses you see at other universities is the fact that everybody treats cybersecurity separately from financial crime investigations,” explained Prof. McLee. “They don’t realize there is an intersection between cybersecurity and financial crimes because most of the bad actors are financially motivated. We have to be able to understand that connection.”
Following the discussion, Tong met with students and faculty in the University’s Samuel S. Bergami Jr. Cybersecurity Center. He interacted with students, attending a demonstration in a cyber computing class. Tong says it is more critical than ever that cybersecurity and data privacy are taken seriously and that the next generation of professionals is prepared to address these issues.
“So much happens online and with such frequency and volume that it’s easy to lose sight of it all,” he said. “It can be hard to keep track of it. The new frontier of cyber and data privacy is challenging for all of us.”