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University of North Georgia and FBI to Conduct State Survey on Cybersecurity

The joint project will find out what kinds of threats businesses and organizations face in Georgia.

(TNS) — For those wary of phishing emails, scammer phone calls wanting your Social Security number and ransomware locking down vital computer files, the University of North Georgia is partnering with the FBI to send out a statewide cyber-threat survey in early 2019.

Bryson Payne, UNG professor and Center for Cyber Operations Education Director, said the university worked on a brief pilot survey sent to 33 organizations to determine “what are the kinds of threats that they are facing in their organizations (and) where are those threats coming from.”

“With that pilot that we just ran through the Atlanta cyber summit, we are expanding to produce a survey for businesses and organizations all over the state of Georgia. It will be the first of its kind state-level survey. It’s a joint effort between an FBI field office and a university,” Payne said.

In March, the city of Atlanta government fell victim to a ransomware cyber-attack, where some information across the city’s applications was encrypted and inaccessible. Dawson County government was also targeted in a cyber attack in April.

UNG is considered by the NSA and Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.

For the average consumer, Payne said it will help people stay vigilant on what threats are out there.

“Besides ransomware, which everyone sees in the news, we have a lot of phone-based scams, where people are using robo-dialers to call people to try and get them to give out personal information like their usernames, passwords or Social Security numbers,” Payne said.

Payne said the FBI field office in Atlanta was interested in assessing the state of cyber threats in Georgia and “getting information on what the most pressing threats are, specific to Atlanta, to the state of Georgia and the companies and organizations in the state.”

The full distribution list is still being determined, but Payne said it will go to hospitals, energy companies, municipalities, county governments, law enforcement and businesses of all sizes in early 2019.

“What we hope to do is educate all the users about the kinds of threats they need to be looking for based on what their peers are seeing across the state, and we want to get an accurate picture for law enforcement, for cybersecurity professionals of what the upcoming threats are that they should be watching for,” he said.

©2018 The Times, Gainesville, Ga. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.