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April 18, 2023

Cybercrime is evolving — so should we

UCalgary Information Technologies department offers resources, tips, and a webinar on how to stay safe in an age of AI-powered cybercrime

While it’s common for pop culture to depict artificial intelligence as a slippery slope to robot world domination, when it comes to cybersecurity, humans present a much bigger threat 

Recent AI inventions such as ChatGPT have generated much excitement about society’s trek into cyberpunk reality, but such programs could potentially provide cybercriminals with highly effective tools to commit fraud, theft and exploitation. To encourage digital safety, the University of Calgary’s Information Technologies (IT) department has compiled resources and tips to help students, faculty and staff recognize and avoid cybercrimes. IT is also hosting a cybersecurity webinar later this month. 

Thanks to advancements in AI technology, criminals are now able to commit more sophisticated and harder-to-detect crimes, making it increasingly difficult for individuals and authorities to keep up with their tactics. Cybercriminals are leveraging AI technology to create articulate, grammatically sound and persuasive messages to scam individuals. In fact, the very paragraph you are reading was written by an AI, demonstrating just how advanced this technology has become. IT experts advise that education and active participation in one's own digital safety is the best form of defence against these attacks. That’s why it is essential that students, faculty and staff take the necessary precautions to protect their personal information and devices. 

- Generative AI

Unlike fictional supercomputers that are equipped with a moral compass, when it comes to real AI malicious intent comes entirely from the human beings who use it. As impressive as some AI-generated text can be, it holds no motivation, no agenda or intent of its own.

Once you learn how to spot various types of cybercrime and the motivations behind them you will be better equipped to protect yourself against them. Cyberbullying and phishing are among the most prevalent types of cybercrimes, but online sexploitation, malware and website spoofing can also occur. To learn more about identifying different types of cybercrimes, visit IT’s new Staying Cybersafe website. 

Maintaining digital privacy by ensuring devices are patched and up to date on the latest software goes a long way to protecting against data breaches. Humanity may be years away from generating robot clones and replicas, but virtual identity theft continues to rise thanks to new online scams. To avoid having your identity stolen, IT recommends maintaining password best practices such as not reusing passwords across devices and applications, regularly backing up data, turning on multifactor authentication for all your accounts, and being aware of what you share online.  

These steps are most effective when practiced regularly, not just at home, but also on campus and while travelling. UCalgary offers a short-term international loaner device program for those travelling while on UCalgary business. The program aims to help the university’s community avoid having their data seized or stolen, along with avoiding malware introduced on devices through public wireless networks, public computer workstations and charging stations. 

Calgary Police Services (CPS) and IT services will be hosting a webinar on April 27 called Staying Safe in a Changing Digital Environment for those looking to dive deeper into cybersecurity. The webinar will feature Michael Kim, BSc’13, outreach programs manager at YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre, and UCalgary IT’s cybersecurity director, Mark Sly.

While AI may currently not be a threat on its own, the cybercriminals who use it clearly are. Remaining educated on new cybercrime strategies and being mindful of what you share online is the best line of defence to outsmart AI and the humans behind them. 

IT encourages the campus community to report instances of cyberbullying, online harassment, phishing and other cybersecurity concerns via UService. To learn more about staying secure online, visit the Top 10 Cybersecurity Tips page and enrol in the Privacy and Cybersecurity Awareness course on D2L and our Cybersecurity – IT Introduction to Phishing course on Enterprise Learning Management. 

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