Can Public-Private Partnerships Solve Our Cybersecurity Woes?  

Guest author Bruce deGrazia, JD, CISSP, is a collegiate professor of cybersecurity management and policy at UMGC.  

Every day a new cyberattack takes place somewhere in the United States. These attacks can originate domestically or internationally, and their motives range from financial gain to state-sponsored, low-level warfare. Whatever the threat, the common thread is that there is no easy way to stop them.  

What is the solution? We’ve seen policy approaches, including simple strategies such as training. We’ve seen technical approaches, such as stronger firewalls. Also in the national cybersecurity conversation is a discussion around what is known as the Orlando Doctrine, in which private organizations can legally target suspected hackers and destroy their infrastructure. None of these approaches appear to work, as successful cyberattacks have only increased, leading experts to search for other solutions.  

One of those is the idea of public-private partnerships. 

A public-private partnership takes various forms, from the sharing of costs and profits, as occurs with a toll road, to the sharing of information between the private sector and the government without the fear of liability for antitrust. It is the latter type of public-private partnership that has been proposed to address cyber-vulnerabilities and attacks. The question is: Will it work?  

This idea is not new. As early as 2009—a lifetime in cybersecurity years—the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), a not-for-profit organization of private sector government contractors in the intelligence and national security fields, offered various models of how such a partnership would work. INSA looked at successful partnerships in fields other than cybersecurity to determine whether those approaches could be transferred. Ultimately, it proposed bringing together a series of panels, the members of which would encompass individuals, private sector companies and government organizations, to share information and draft voluntary standards for use across industry. 

INSA’s proposal was good but was never implemented. To have done so would have required action not only by the executive branch of government, but also through legislation. In addition, the private sector, including internet service providers, would have needed to accept the concept of voluntary regulation. The information technology industry is vehemently opposed to regulation of any sort. Even voluntary standards were a non-starter. 

Legislation has been proposed in Congress to create public-private partnerships for cybersecurity. In 2020 and 2021, the bipartisan Enhancing Grid Security Through Public-Private Partnership Act was introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate. This bill focuses on just a single industry—the electricity creation and transmission sector—but one that is seen as particularly vulnerable and for which a successful attack on the grid would have devastating consequences. Focus on preventing such an attack is a logical place to start. 

The proposed legislation is hardly earthshaking. It simply directs the secretary of energy to create a program to develop a basic framework for auditing, self-assessments, training, sharing best practices and setting up third-party vendor guidelines. It also requests that the secretary of energy provide a report that evaluates policies and procedures for enhancing the cybersecurity of the grid.  

So, what happened to the bill? In the previous Congress, it passed the House and was sent to the Senate, where it died in committee. In the current Congress, the bill has also passed the House and is back in the Senate—under consideration by the same committee that previously reviewed it. 

Unfortunately, the outlook for public-private partnerships to advance cybersecurity looks dim. The most comprehensive proposal, that of INSA, appears to have gone nowhere. Even approaches that target a single industry, like the bill now in the Senate, are not assured.  

Perhaps the public-private partnership is not the way forward. We need only look as far as the INSA proposal to see why. Voluntary regulation is unpopular. Industry does not like regulation in general and will use the process to delay any attempt to impose rules. The IT industry is notoriously independent and likes it that way. Also, because there are as many cybersecurity technology solutions as there are companies, competition among the creators of those solutions is fierce. Where would the “best practices” come from?  

The bottom line is that the INSA and legislative approaches presuppose a high-level of voluntary cooperation between government and the private sector. In our competitive marketplace, that cooperation is difficult to achieve if a trade secret might be revealed or if a company might lose a strategic advantage.  

Cyberbullying: Five Common Misconceptions 

Guest author Richard White, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor of cybersecurity information assurance at UMGC. He is also the author of the books “Cyberbullying: The Silent Sickness of America’s Youth,” and “Cybercrime: The Madness Behind the Methods.” 

In the last 15 years or so, a new menace has emerged that threatens to erode trust and destroy young lives. Before children had access to mobile phones, social media accounts and online gaming forums, bullying occurred mainly in schoolyards and on playgrounds. There, at least you knew who the bullies were and that you would be safe at home. Sadly, today we live in a world where “cyberbullies,” perpetrators who use electronic communication to intimidate or threaten, follow their victims right into their homes and even the safety of their bedrooms.  

Cyberbullying occurs out of public view and away from the sightline of mindful parents, teachers, friends and bystanders. Victims of cyberbullying have nowhere to hide. 

Many people do not take the cyberbullying epidemic seriously, mainly because they do not see it or understand its implications. But the consequences can be devastating. According to the Journal of Health Economics, statistics collected as far back as 2017 indicate that internet bullying increases suicidal thinking among its victims by 14.5 percent and suicide attempts by 8.7 percent. In recent research published in the Journal of School Violence, Sameer Hinduja and Justin Patchin, co-directors of the Cyberbullying Research Center, found that students who experienced bullying or cyberbullying are nearly twice as likely to attempt suicide.   

Social media, an integral part of how teens, especially, communicate and interact with friends, has made it particularly difficult for parents to identify the signs cyberbullying and even more difficult for them to prevent it. The social aspect of social media—namely retweets, “likes” and comments—opens a world of opportunity for nefarious behavior. An original message can be distorted, private photos can be shared, and a perfectly innocent communication can be misused to victimize and torment its originator. 

Cyberbullies remain anonymous or masquerade as someone else. They attack at any time of day or night and from any place in the world. Victims often find themselves alone in the fight as others steer clear to avoid becoming targets, too. This gives the advantage to the cyberbully and makes it harder to stop the malicious activity. 

To better understand and combat online abuse and hate, it is helpful to dispel common misconceptions about cyberbullying.   

  1. Cyberbullying is less harmful than traditional bullying. 

False. Traditional bullying can be damaging and lead to physical altercations. But the  persistent and pervasive nature of cyberbullying can fuel deep emotional and physical problems that even lead, in some cases, to suicide. The real problem with cyberbullying is the persistent relationship between the victim and the digital media source of the abuse. A cyberbully take advantage of this relationship. 

  1. Victims of cyberbullying show signs of emotional abuse early. 

False. With younger victims, often there are no obvious signs of abuse until the bullying problem becomes overwhelming and dangerous. Victims, embarrassed by the content a cyberbully focuses on or spreads, may make every effort to hide it from those who care about them.  

  1. A parent can tell if a child is being cyberbullied.  

False. Not only is this not true, but a parent may be the last to know. Children and young adults are experts when it comes to hiding emotional distress. They go great lengths to hide their pain from parents and other authority figures, particularly in the early stages of the abuse.  

  1. Cyberbullying usually unfolds in one form. 

False. Cyberbullying takes many shapes, including the following: 

  • Using text messaging to harass a victim: Bullies often work as a gang to identify a target and then send hundreds of messages filled with vulgarities and personal insults. The goal is to overwhelm a victim by the sheer number of attacks. These bullies may magnify this by posting rumors—meant to cause as much emotional distress as possible—on social media platforms.  
  • Falsely reporting a victim as a cyberbully: Many websites and chatrooms feature a button to notify moderators of a user who is causing harm to other people on the platforms. If they receive multiple reports over a short period of time, the systems are designed to automatically remove someone from their service. Bullies use this feature to kick innocent victims off social media networks. 
  • Identity theft: Bullies will steal the password to a social media account and then post inappropriate material in full view of parents, relatives and friends. Some cyberbullies post racist or sexual information specifically to embarrass. 
  • Trolling: Trolling is a term that has received widespread notoriety over the last few years. This practice involves sending a message aimed at eliciting an emotional response from the victim. These messages target ethnic, religious or social background. Most of these offenders, or Trolls, seek to overwhelm their victims and make them feel vulnerable and humiliated. This leads to feelings of hopelessness. It also leaves victims powerless to control emotional and social situations in their lives.  
  • Cyberstalking: An especially dangerous type of bullying, cyberstalking occurs when a perpetrator monitors a victim’s digital media presence to gather information on their personal life, whereabouts and behavior patterns. The information is used to blackmail, harass or solicit sex from a victim. This is additionally dangerous due to the close link between stalking and violence.  
  • Ostracism: A large group of friends can decide to purposefully ignore one member by failing to acknowledge phone calls, texts or online posts. This makes the victim feel isolated and embarrassed. 
  • Trickery: Trickery can take several forms. For example, someone can create a fake social media account to trick a victim into believing someone is romantically interested in them or to get the victim to trust them. Once the connection is achieved, victims might be lured into revealing personal information that could be used to blackmail or embarrass them.  
  1. Cyberbullies are evil and misguided. 

False. Cyberbullies, in most cases, appear well adjusted and socialize with others in a seemingly acceptable manner. This includes their interactions with parents, teachers, authority figures and even the parents of their victims. Who, then, becomes a cyberbully? The disconcerting answer is anyone. Context and situation, home environment, poor coping skills, past victimhood or a lack of supervision can all contribute to the emergence of a cyberbully. 

Cyberbullying is on a rapid rise, and we must take a stand now to prevent and eradicate this social disease. Tougher laws are needed to document and punish first-time and repeat offenders. More responsibility needs to reside with social media platforms. They must block and permanently remove offenders, both automatically and when reported. We also need to extend more authority to law enforcement agencies responsible for investigating and prosecuting offenders.  

Lastly, everyone must be involved: parents, teachers, friends, other family members. The cost of inaction will be the loss of those most vulnerable. If you know or suspect someone is being cyberbullied, act now. Tomorrow might be too late.  

UMGC Grad Student, UMBC Alum, Team Up on Winning University System of Maryland Public Health Multimedia Challenge

“3 W’s” Video Is One of Six Creative Multimedia Presentations on Staying Safe, Healthy while Waiting for COVID Vaccination Recognized by USM Task Force and Corporate Sponsors

The duo of University of Maryland Global Campus graduate student Cory Wilkerson and collaborator Stephen Brouillette, a University of Maryland, Baltimore County alumnus, is one of six winning teams announced today by the University System of Maryland (USM) COVID Research & Innovation Task Force as part of its Public Health Challenge, undertaken with the generous support of several local organizations.Continue Reading

USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman and System Presidents Join in Effort to Promote COVID-19 Vaccinations Across Maryland

Effort Includes Joint Statement, Video PSA and Stepped-Up Campus Advocacy Activities

Baltimore, Md. (Feb. 3, 2021) – University System of Maryland (USM) Chancellor Jay A. Perman and presidents of the system’s 12 universities have joined together in a special promotional effort to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations across Maryland. This multimedia campaign—designed to dovetail with state activities to promote the safety and efficacy of vaccines, especially in communities with vaccine hesitancy—will also highlight the many ways USM faculty, staff, and students are contributing to fight the pandemic.Continue Reading

2021 DoDEA Teacher of the Year

UMGC alumna Lachanda Garrison, who grew up attending DoDEA schools, wins high praise from the organization that inspired her to teach.

Lachanda Garrison ‘03 is a firm believer in the Department of Defense Education Activity’s (DoDEA) mission to “educate, engage and empower military-connected students to succeed in a dynamic world.” She should know. As the daughter of a U.S. Marine, she grew up in Okinawa, Japan, where she attended DoDEA schools and ultimately graduated from Kubasaki High School.

Today, she is the one at the front of the classroom teaching children of military personnel who are stationed abroad, and she has made her mark on the institution that helped mold her own mind. This year, she is being honored for her work with the 2021 DoDEA Teacher of the Year Award.Continue Reading

Proper Mindset, Workspace Setup, Lighting Lead to a Safe and Successful Remote Work Environment

As a result of widespread remote working conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic, the daily commutes for many people can now be measured in feet rather than miles.

And while it might be tempting to spend the day working from the couch, improper seating and working habits can have long-term impacts on your health, says UMGC Associate Collegiate Professor Vicki Seal.Continue Reading

UMGC President Javier Miyares Announces Retirement After Eight Years at the Helm of America’s Largest Online Public University

Miyares cited for recognizing power of big data, leveraging analytics, and unwavering focus on accessibility and affordability

Javier Miyares, who fled Castro’s Cuba as a child and found his American dream in Maryland higher education, has announced his retirement after a 45-year career that has culminated in his transformative eight-year tenure as president of University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). Continue Reading

UMGC Faculty Help Students Cope with Challenges, Solve Problems During Pandemic

In many homes, a kitchen table is a place where families gather to eat, celebrate and sometimes work out solutions to problems. 

“A kitchen table is a strong symbol of comfort and a place where you don’t have to be anyone but yourself,” said Edwin Sapp, a 25-year UMGC adjunct professor and past winner of the Stanley J. Drazek Teaching Excellence Award.  That is why, during his spring business Decision-Making course, he created a virtual kitchen table—a safe place where students could share their concerns and support one another during the global pandemic.Continue Reading

A Record Nine Caregivers of Wounded Warriors Awarded 2020 Pillars of Strength Scholarships

Adelphi, Md. (July 20, 2020)—The Pillars of Strength Scholarship Program has selected a record nine volunteer caregivers of severely injured service members to receive full scholarships to attend University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). It is the greatest number of scholarships ever awarded by the program in a single year—and brings to 38 the total number of caregivers who have received Pillars of Strength scholarships since the program’s inception in 2013.Continue Reading

Staying Cybersafe During the Coronavirus Crisis

Faculty members from University of Maryland Global Campus School of Cybersecurity and Information Technology offer their recommendations for staying safe during these uncertain times.

Beware of Scammers. Always active during times of uncertainty, cybercriminals are now working overtime amid the coronavirus crisis through a variety of attack vectors to exploit our fears, insecurities, and confusion around COVID-19 treatments. With so many of us teleworking and confined to our homes, it is vitally important to be aware of online and phone scams, and other threats that are rapidly increasing in volume and sophistication.Continue Reading