Cybersecurity, Local, Park Forest, Schools

Rep. Riley: You Are Being Tracked Online – You & Your Children at School. Cybersecurity Forum at PSC to Tackle This and More.

cybersecurity forum, Rep. Al Riley, Priarie State College, PSC
State Rep. Al Riley’s CyberSecurity Forum will be Tuesday, August 14, from 6:30 PM to 8 PM at Prairie State College. (GRAPHIC SUPPLIED)

Olympia Fields, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Is your computer watching you right now? Are you being tracked online? What information is collected about you? How do most online attacks and data breaches occur? What laws protect your online privacy? How safe is social media? And, perhaps most disturbing, how are our children being tracked in school when they use electronic devices for education? Rep. Al Riley (D – 38th District) will host a CyberSecurity Forum at Prairie State College on Tuesday, August 14, from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM. Considering that nearly every aspect of our lives depends on the Internet, data held on servers called “clouds,” this forum is especially timely.

Because our children are being tracked by some companies when they use electronic devices in school for education.

That’s a fact, and Al Riley says he wants to hear your concerns and help you protect yourself. And your children.

Rep. Riley is not up for re-election. He decided not to run for another term. However, he’s keeping himself busy, “I didn’t run for re-election. I’m serving out my entire term because that’s what people elected me for.” Riley said he intends to serve until the next General Assembly is sworn in on January 10, 2019. “I’m still the state rep. I’m still doing work.”

And part of that work now includes cybersecurity, a topic Riley has immersed himself in as an inaugural member of the Cybersecurity, Data Analytics, and Information Technology Committee.

“I think it’s really appropos at this time, with so much going on, with so much in the news: Trump, collusion with the Russians; the Russians being accused of tampering and hacking into American election systems; security breaches where information on people, be it their credit cards or other information has been breached; security problems with Facebook in terms of where people’s information goes. I think it’s a good time to have a forum really to talk about, in layman’s terms, the legalities and technicalities behind protecting one’s information.

“That’s what this CyberSecurity Forum is all about.”

One of the questions the forum will explore: Are our electronic devices watching us?

“That’s a big concern,” Rep. Riley said. “There’s information out that that’s sort of anectodal. Is your camera on your PC on when you didn’t put it on? Is Alexa listening to your household before you say, ‘Hey, Alexa!’ Is my smart TV looking at me?”

Rep. Riley says some of these may have some truth to them. Some may be more along the line of urban legend. “But the fact of the matter is, the technology is there and it can actually do all of those things.”

The questions then become, “Are they doing them? If they are doing them,. how can you block them? Is there any way to protect yourself from this intrusion in the first place? Has technology gone so far where we can’t control the privacy of all of our data?”

Guest speakers at the forum will include Berenice Martinez of Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office and Professor Shawn Davis of the Illinois Institute of Technology. Professor Davis is an Adjunct Industry Professor, Information Technology and Management whose research includes “Network and System Security, Digital Forensics, Incident Handling, Exploitation Techniques, and Threat Analysis,” according to his profile at IIT. Berenice Martinez will address the legal questions. Professor Davis will serve as the main speaker, according to Rep. Riley.

State rep. al riley
State Rep. Al Riley. (PHOTO SUPPLIED)

“Our job is to protect the people of the State of Illinois [in the General Assembly,” Rep. Riley said.

Rep. Riley said there was an attempt to hack the allection apparatus in Illinois. “We beat it back,” he said.

“All of these things are real,” he said. “The Russians, who were in fact indicted by Robert Mueller, we had information that they went to certain states. They tried to come to our state. Of course, Illinois, being as big and as important as it is, we beat it back.”

“In the 100th General Assembly which will be ending at the end of the year, two years ago when we began, we created a new House committee. We just thought it was so important to create a committee to deal with these things, and to hear the legislation that members came up with that were germane to cybersecurity.”

The new committee is called the Cybersecurity, Data Analytics, and Information Technology Committee. Rep. Riley sits on that committee. Other members include Jaime M. Andrade, Jr. (D) who serves as the Chairperson, Rep. Christian L. Mitchell (D) who serves as Vice-Chairperson. Rep. Mike Fortner, the Republican Spokesperson, Rep. Jonathan Carroll (D), Rep. Tom Demmer (R), Rep. Scott Drury (D), Rep. David Harris (R), Rep. Keith R. Wheeler (R), Christine Winger (R), and Michael J. Zalewski (D).

Rep. Riley said the committee had a hearing “the other day talking about data security issues dealing with children in school. Are children in school vulnerable? Yes, they are.”

According to Rep. Riley, many school districts have software to facilitate teaching: giving students tests, give students the opportunity to turn in assignments electronically, etc.

“We found out that some of this software is actually tracking the student,” he said. “There should be some sort of provisions, you would think, for a parent and their student to opt-out of this software, but there’s a lot of legal ramifications behind that.”

The issue of protecting one’s privacy permeates every facet of someone’s life, Rep. Riley added.

Rep. Riley spoke of the company Knewton which specializes in “fully integrated adaptive learning courseware,” according to their website.

According to Rep. Riley, the CEO of Knewton, Ryan Prichard, has “gone to forums where he said, ‘We know more about your kid and kids like your child than Google, Facebook, and everything else combined.”

Privacy issues for children become threatening in the face of boasts. “Suppose a kid has an IEP [Individualized Education Program]?” Riley asked. An IEP is indicative of some sort of learning disability, and the individualized program for each student is designed to help that student succeed.

There are other issues besides IEPs, however, Riley said. “Suppose that kid has behavioral problems that are tracked by the school? Or, maybe tracked by the software? That’s some very intrusive information about the kid that would just be out there, if, in fact, the company is tracking these children.”

“It’s extremely scary,” Rep. Riley said.

Professor Shawn Davis will spend some time at the forum speaking about school protection issues.

And there’s more.

Rep. Riley said a parent testified before the Cybersecurity, Data Analytics, and Information Technology Committee and said she wanted to opt-out of that type of software at the school her child attends and was told that, if she opted-out, “You might as well send your kid to another school.”

“That’s a hell of a thing to say,” Riley added. “All she’s trying to do is protect her son’s information from getting out.”

Rep. Riley recalled another parent testified who said, “My kid’s real smart. All of the sudden we started getting emails, letters, and calls saying, ‘You would really be good at this charter school.’ The guy said, ‘How the hell did you get my information?'” The father was told, “We bought this information, we can do anything we want with it, and you don’t have anything to say,” according to Rep. Riley.

The forum will be held this coming Tuesday, August 14, 2018 from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM in the Barnes and Noble College Auditorium located withing the Conference Center at Prairie State College.

Enter through door M 36.

There is complimentary parking in lots C and D which are accessible from Vollmer Road.

Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP to (708) 799-4364 or send an email to [email protected].