To celebrate Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock is profiling those in the Trojan community who are involved in cybersecurity. Meet Sandra Leiterman, managing director of the UA Little Rock Cyber Gym.
Please tell us about yourself.
I am originally from Wisconsin, but I moved to Little Rock in 2006. I attended UA Little Rock and received my B.S. in Middle School Education (Math-Science) in 2010. I have a graduate certificate in Gifted and Talented Education also from UA Little Rock, and my master’s is in Digital Teaching and Online Learning from Kansas State (2015). I am currently working on my PhD in Urban Education with a specialization in Math Education.
I have been married for 24 years. I have one son who will graduate in May from Oklahoma State University, and I have a dog named Humphrey. When I am not working or working on schoolwork, you can find me at CycleBar, or on a run with my dog at one of the bridge parks (Two Rivers, Big Dam Bridge etc). I also find sewing very therapeutic and mind-calming.
What is your experience with the cybersecurity field?
My experience with cybersecurity actually started as a middle school teacher. My classes had a significant online portion. I realized that when you are asking middle school students to get online and collaborate with other students, there has to be some rules. In addition to online learning etiquette, I realized that most of the students had no idea about basic online safety and etiquette.
Using Common Sense media, I had each and every student go through the Digital Citizenship course and earn their certification before they were allowed to interact online.
At UA Little Rock, I became involved with cybersecurity with the Cyber Gym. My first role was to recruit teachers for a professional development course in learning the Cyber Gym Workouts. I was able to participate in some of the activities throughout the year, and my involvement with the Cyber Gym went from a one-time coordinator to a full-time managing director.
What made you want to get involved with cybersecurity?
The more I worked with students in a digital environment, the more I realized most people have no clue about basic internet safety, let alone more complex topics. The range of topics in cybersecurity is very broad. As I learned more about the topics covered in the Cyber Gym, I became more aware of my own ignorance in cybersecurity and internet safety. As an educator, I feel it is important to educate as many people as possible. We live in a digital world, more now than ever before with COVID, and people need to know the dangers and also how to protect themselves and their businesses.
How important do you think cybersecurity is and why?
Cybersecurity is very important to everyone! Attacks on computers can happen to anyone at anytime. It is estimated that a computer is hacked every 39 seconds in the United States. Individuals are just as vulnerable as businesses, especially if they are unaware of the dangers, and how hackers are able to get in and retrieve personal/sensitive information (think Identity Theft). It is important to learn the types of attacks that happen, and how to protect yourself and/or your business.
What exciting things are happening at UA Little Rock related to cybersecurity?
New cybersecurity degree program, officially start Fall 2021
Cybersecurity Summer Camps are being planned now
Partnership with ADE and Virtual Arkansas – Cyber Gym workouts being used with over 400 high school students across Arkansas
Partnership with Arkansas Small Business Technology Development Center to develop an online training in cybersecurity for Arkansas small businesses
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. What are a few pieces of advice the average person can do to protect themselves from cyber-attacks?
Use an antivirus program (this helps to keep you on safe websites)
Keep all your software up to date (while it may be annoying to constantly update a cell phone or computer OS, most of the time the updates are because of a new security breach, and the updates are usually patches to help stop the attack)
Use Strong passwords – characters, numbers, etc. Don’t use the same password on every site, don’t share your passwords, and don’t save them to your device.
Learn and know what Phishing is! This is how hackers get your information, via email, phone call, text message. Be suspicious of emails sent from anyone asking you to click a link and update account information. This is not a practice for anyone but scammers. Similarly, with phone calls, companies will not call and ask you for an account number or anything similar. Hang up, and call your bank or credit card company directly. 90 percent of the time, they did not actually call/email you!