Even Before Pandemic - UNLV NewsCenter

Even Before Pandemic - UNLV NewsCenter Even Before Pandemic - UNLV NewsCenter Posted: 05 Oct 2020 12:00 AM PDT Even before the coronavirus pandemic propelled UNLV into remote learning in the spring, online courses at UNLV were prevalent.  "There's been a steady decrease in the number of students that have never taken an online course," said Elizabeth Barrie, the director of the Office of Online Education . She recently presented during The State of Online Education webinar event. It highlighted some of the initiatives and cross-campus partnerships that contribute to student achievement and shared how faculty prepared for online learning through the summer. She noted that 95% of students who graduated in spring 2020 with an undergraduate degree had taken at least one online course. And, compared to past years, there has been an increase in the number of students who have taken more than 30 credits, or two semesters, online. 

3 Seattle Schools Give COVID Collab a College Try - American Theatre

3 Seattle Schools Give COVID Collab a College Try - American Theatre

3 Seattle Schools Give COVID Collab a College Try - American Theatre

Posted: 22 Feb 2021 06:00 AM PST

After coronavirus concerns moved life and learning online in March of 2020, artist-administrators at three of Seattle's preeminent undergraduate theatre programs—the University of Washington, Seattle University, and Cornish College of the Arts—found themselves searching for support.

"We started talking together as a way of brainstorming and sharing resources," said Rosa Joshi (she/her), a theatre director and the chair of performing arts and arts leadership at Seattle University. "It was about, what the hell are we doing now?'"

Early conversations addressed logistics: COVID-19 safety practices, remote teaching tips, plans for eventual reopening. As shows were cancelled and classes moved online, the sense of loss was profound.

"We work in this art form that is all about people being in a room together, sharing the physical vibrations of bodies and voices together in space," said Richard E. T. White (he/him), chair of the Cornish theatre department, "and that got taken away from us."

Geoff Korf.

Like artists do, this cohort of theatremakers countered heartbreak with innovation. Geoff Korf (all pronouns) was appointed executive director of the University of Washington School of Drama less than a year before COVID-19 hit Seattle in earnest. He'd been teaching lighting design at UW since 2002, and in his new leadership role, he prioritized fixing a longstanding imbalance between opportunities for BFA and MFA students. That meant providing his undergraduates with a stellar artistic program, pandemic or no.

Korf found inspiration—and soon, seed money—when the University of Washington's Floyd and Delores Jones Endowed Fund for the Arts put out a call for grant proposals focused specifically on collaborative projects within UW or with external partners. Uncharted Waters, as this institutional collective is now known, was born.

Given the vagaries of geography, scheduling, and Seattle traffic, you'd be hard-pressed to get students from three schools together in one space at one time. But those complications don't apply to online rehearsal rooms, and more connections forged among artists means a stronger arts community overall. By producing online shows together, these educators realized, their students would become part of the cross-pollination process that feeds Seattle's tightknit professional theatre community. Why not help expand their networks at a time when their ability to meet new people is limited?

Porscha Shaw.

On March 11, two plays with casts and creative teams made up of students, faculty, and alumni from all three schools will celebrate online opening nights. Seattle U's Joshi directs Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, while Cornish faculty member Sheila Daniels and Porscha Shaw, a graduate of UW's MFA acting program, co-direct the devised theatre piece Bodies of Water. The programming offers students two plays that are structurally very different but exist in conversation with one another: Twelfth Night folds ideas of identity and connection into a buoyant comedy, while the ensemble-created Bodies of Water swirls around broad themes of harm and healing, care and celebration of our own bodies and others' bodies to ask, among other things, how we show up for one another during our country's dual pandemics of coronavirus and systemic racism.

"My first impression was, they're really gonna do this?" said Shaw (she/her), eyebrows aloft as she described her initial response this complex co-production. "And my next impression was, this should have been done a long time ago."

For Taylor Freeman (she/her), a second-year acting student at UW and Twelfth Night cast member, the practical value of working with non-UW students was immediately apparent. "It's helped me realize I was doing really well in certain areas, and now that I'm watching skills or techniques that [students from other schools] have, it makes me think, I'd like to up my skill level in that way," she said. "I want to be versatile, so I'm matching what they bring to the rehearsal room."

On an institutional level, one clear perk of combining resources is financial: both Uncharted shows boast creative teams stacked with top-notch video artists and composers, a real boon to boosting production value of online theatre. Each school is also reaching new audiences, thanks to the power of shared marketing avenues—always a good thing.

Richard E.T. White.

Balancing the needs of different programs with different priorities has complicated matters. An example: SU's student actors, who pursue their theatre major (often half of a double major) as part of a robust liberal arts education, generally only perform in one show each quarter. Students at Cornish, a conservatory program, have many more performance opportunities. Finding parity between student bodies and their educational expectations is crucial. So far, most feel, the benefits outweigh the pitfalls. "As long as everyone is open-hearted, there can't be too many creative minds in a room," Daniels said.

"I definitely want to make all the Seattle theatre connections that I can, so this is kind of the perfect final assignment for me," said Quinn Chase (he/him), a fourth-year Cornish student who is stage managing Twelfth Night. For Chase, this production is a bright spot in a dark time—in mid-February, Cornish unceremoniously announced that it was discontinuing two majors, including his Performance Production major. It was a blow—a rug ripped out from under a program he loves and has invested so much of himself in.

"It has been helpful to be making this art with these people," he said. Plus, he's already landed his next dream gig: working on a spring show with local outfit Washington Ensemble Theatre. So, he'll stay in Seattle, at least for a while.

Building connections among students is undeniably valuable, but what about building connections among students and the creative community in which they live? During a recent online symposium called "Relational Art-Making: Cultivating a Beloved Seattle Theatre Community," presented under the Uncharted Waters umbrella, student artists connected with local artistic directors and theatre leaders to ask big questions—about equity and access, about the work being produced in the city, about the values of the theatre community. The future of the Uncharted Waters project remains unknown, but, as Joshi explains it, the time is right to harness the collective power of educational institutions to define the future of the field.

In the face of a global, industry-gutting shutdown, finding positive paths forward, and seeing abundance rather than scarcity, doesn't feel Pollyanna-ish—it feels psychologically necessary.

"As we started hatching this project, we became aware of the symbolism, which was that this isn't just about making a piece of art," White said. "This is a celebration of survival and community. By doing this in the face of this pandemic, and all of the obstacles that we face, we're making a statement about what we believe in."

Gemma Wilson (she/her) is an arts writer based in Seattle, and a contributing editor at American Theatre. gemmaspacilwilson.com

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BlueVoyant Report Reveals Ransomware is the Number One Cyber Threat facing Higher Education - PRNewswire

Posted: 23 Feb 2021 09:50 AM PST

COVID-19 has forced the higher education sector to rapidly transition to remote learning. This report delivers insights into the growing threat landscape of ransomware, credential breaches and other online threats facing universities and colleges.

NEW YORK, Feb. 23, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- BlueVoyant, a cybersecurity services company, today announced the findings from its Cybersecurity in Higher Education report. Using open source data and proprietary research, BlueVoyant analyzed 2702 universities across 43 countries, revealing that ransomware attacks against universities increased by 100% between 2019 and 2020, and are the number one cyber threat—with the average cost of a ransomware attack totaling $447,000. Additionally, tactics seen in other industries—such as holding organizations to ransom for larger sums of money—were also observed amongst attacks on higher education institutions. 

In the wake of COVID-19, the higher education sector is experiencing unprecedented change. Not only are universities embracing, or wrestling with, a host of new technologies and teaching methods—they're also using a variety of apps, portals, and remote teaching technologies to support online or blended learning environments, which exponentially increase their vulnerability to a cybersecurity breach. As the nature of the classroom and the student experience evolves, universities face new challenges, new demands, and new risks which underscore the critical need to secure their proprietary data sources and to be properly positioned to withstand the growing threat landscape of cybersecurity breaches.

The report outlines the current threat landscape for the higher education sector and, delivers insights about the growing threat of ransomware attacks, the outsized impact of credential breaches, and the broader consequences for schools in the form of credential stuffing attacks. The research also outlines a concerning prevalence of high-risk vulnerabilities in the sector, which require remediation, including using multi-factor authentication, password policy mandates, monitoring anomalies and password screening.  

Key findings from the report include:

  • Ransomware is the number one threat facing universities—ransomware events doubled from 2019 to 2020.
  • The average cost of a ransomware attack in higher education in 2020 was $447,000.
  • Data breaches were the number two threat facing universities, making up half of all events in 2019.
  • Data theft by nation states is a regular occurrence, affecting over 200 universities in the past two years.
  • University credential lists are massive and heavily trafficked in dark web markets, underpinning a huge volume of threats targeting accounts and vulnerable websites.
  • Passwords are easily compromised due to the prevalence of simple passwords and password reuse.
  • Threats have magnified, due to increasing reliance on mobile devices, the move to remote learning, and third-party education partners—expanding the higher education attack surface.

Common vulnerabilities identified in the sector are:

  • Two thirds (66%) of all analyzed universities and colleges lacked all basic email security configurations, which left these institutions exposed to phishing attacks.
  • Over three quarters of all analyzed universities and colleges had open or unsecured remote desktop ports. Open remote desktop protocol (RDP) ports are the number two threat vector—behind phishing—or ransomware gangs.
  • 86% of all observed universities and colleges showed evidence of inbound botnet targeting. The rise of botnet activity over the past year has prominently featured in the news.

Key adversary tactics commonly deployed against education sector targets included:

Credential stuffing: whereby account credentials, typically consisting of lists of usernames and/or email addresses and the corresponding passwords, are used to gain unauthorized access to user accounts through large-scale automated login attempts.

Brute-Forcing: when an attacker systematically submits many passwords or passphrases with the hope of eventually guessing correctly. The attacker checks all possible passwords and passphrases until the correct one is found.

Dehashing/Cracking: the process of recovering passwords from data that has been stored in an unsalted hashed form. Hashes are scrambled versions of passwords that services use to enhance security practices, however, hashing is not equivalent to cryptography and many hashes can be 'cracked' or guessed.

Commenting on the research, Jim Penrose, COO, BlueVoyant said: "As the nature of teaching and the student experience changes in response to COVID-19, universities and higher education establishments face new challenges, demands and risks. The attack surface has exponentially increased as organizations in this sector move to remote learning and face unique privacy and cyber risks. This is due to the combination of the sensitive data they manage and the nature of how technology is deployed, combined with growing regulations facing this sector."

"The good news is that many of these issues can be easily rectified with the introduction of cybersecurity technologies, policies and user education. This includes multi-factor authentication (MFA) and long password policies, combined with the ability to block password reuse and simple passwords, and password screening. By combining long passwords with MFA and screening, the chance of being breached through brute force or credential stuffing attacks is considerably reduced."

In addition to the broad scope analysis, BlueVoyant has also provided insights on a smaller pool of 30 universities. This in-depth analysis looked for distinct patterns and trends to identify vulnerabilities that matched the known threat vectors and risks. Analysis showed that torrenting (a popular method of sharing large files online) and gaming were being widely used, and highlighted the scale of credentials data commonly available.

Jim Rosenthal, co-founder and CEO, BlueVoyant, concludes: "This is an industry that has had to rapidly pivot to online learning, changing their standard methods of learning, practically overnight. The education sector is also under huge financial and regulatory pressure. Threat actors know that there are vulnerabilities to be exploited and they are taking advantage of these vulnerabilities at every opportunity—making it an imperative for universities to adopt a solid cybersecurity threat posture to ensure that the wealth of sensitive data is properly defended against adversaries."

About BlueVoyant

BlueVoyant is an expert-driven cybersecurity services company whose mission is to proactively defend organizations of all sizes against today's constant, sophisticated attackers, and advanced threats. 

Led by CEO, Jim Rosenthal, BlueVoyant's highly skilled team includes former government cyber officials with extensive frontline experience in responding to advanced cyber threats on behalf of the National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Unit 8200 and GCHQ, together with private sector experts. BlueVoyant services utilize large real-time datasets with industry leading analytics and technologies.

Founded in 2017 by Fortune 500 executives, including Executive Chairman, Tom Glocer, and former Government cyber officials, BlueVoyant is headquartered in New York City and has offices in Maryland, Tel Aviv, San Francisco, Manila, Toronto, London, and Latin America.

BlueVoyant Press Contacts: 
Danielle Ostrovsky  
C8 Consulting (Americas)  
T: 001 410-302-9459  
E: [email protected] 

Jim Pople 
C8 Consulting (EMEA)  
T: +44 7955 030191  
E: [email protected]

SOURCE BlueVoyant


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