Centre recognizes cyber safety, Down Syndrome awareness month – Lock Haven Express

Pictured, from left, are Clinton County Commissioners Amber Concepcion, Mark Higgins, WorkLink Certificate Program graduate Haley Smith, Centre Region Down Syndrome Society board member Medora Ebersole and Commissioner Steven Dershem.

Pictured, from left, are Centre County commissioners Amber Concepcion, Mark Higgins, county Chief Information and Records Officer Chad Joyce, county IT Operations Coordinator Tanya Hofford and Commissioner Steven Dershem.

BELLEFONTE — The Centre County Commissioners announced two proclamations this week for the month of October.

They first proclaimed October with Cybersecurity Awareness Month in Centre County. Tanya Hofford, IT Operations Coordinator, read the proclamation out loud.

“The rise of the internet has brought incredible opportunity and new ways of innovating and enhancing our way of life with great potential, but also comes heightened risk to our data and privacy,” read Hofford.

The proclamation encouraged everyone to use four simple steps to stay safe online: use strong passwords with a password manager; turn on multifactor authentication; recognize and report phishing; and update your software.

Chad Joyce, Chief Information and Records Officer, said, “This is the 20th year CISA — a federal cyber security agency — has hosted this month. What this is about is helping to educate individuals on how to conduct online activity safely both in the workplace and at home to help mitigate and reduce cyber threats.”

He noted that the county will have a series of newsletters and educational materials for staff on cyber security awareness, as well as uploading them to the county’s website for the public.

“We’re also going to be kicking off an annual cyber security awareness training for all of our employees using our LinkedIn learning platform,” said Joyce.

Chairman Mark Higgins reminded everyone in the audience and watching the livestream to “use longer passwords.”

“If you’re going to answer all those questions on social media about your pets names, who you went to high school with etcetera, don’t use those as your passwords,” said Higgins.

Commissioner Amber Concepcion mentioned that she spoke to the IT Director of Schlow Library who told her they provide small group classes/tutorials on cyber security.

“They can sometimes help you sort through some of those (phishing) situations. They also have some expertise to help people learn more about what is the latest knowledge you need to keep yourself safe online. Keep your financial data and personal information secure. It’s always changing,” said Concepcion.

Commissioner Steven Dershem spoke about how often cyber attacks occur, and who are most often affected.

“I think we need to be reminded that some of our seniors and folks that maybe don’t have the level of technology — I guess I’m in that group, I’m not very tech savvy — we are probably the most targeted group. We don’t always have the latest and sophisticated information. Work with the folks in your lives and make sure that they understand that they have to do these things.

You can clean out bank accounts and run up charges… There’s a lot of vulnerability in kids that extend beyond the internet that unfortunately cyber security can be a bridge to. Technology is a wonderful thing, but it’s a double-edged sword you don’t want to get cut by,” said Dershem.

The second proclamation was recognizing October as Down Syndrome Awareness month.

Medora Ebersole, board member of the Centre Region Down Syndrome Society, spoke about how the proclamation is empowering.

“I’m honored to be a part of this proclamation ceremony and let people know how this proclamation empowers persons with Down Syndrome to contribute their many special gifts and make Centre County a better place for all,” said Ebersole.

The Centre Region Down Syndrome Society was established in 2006 by a group of parents to serve as a table talk resource for families working their way through the world of special needs as it pertains to Down syndrome.

Haley Smith, a recent graduate of the WorkLink Certificate Program at Penn State University, expressed her thankfulness to the county for recognizing the Down Syndrome community.

“Thank you, we will never forget your support and kindness,” said Smith.

Concepcion commented on the program Smith has recently graduated from, saying that it provides a lot of opportunities.

“(It) provides a lot of opportunities for folks with Down Syndrome and other needs to be able to spread their wings in a supportive environment,” said Concepcion.

“What I’ve experienced is how much I get from being with persons with Down Syndrome — how much creativity, problem solving and joy they bring to any situation,” said Ebersole.

Ebersole also spoke about the Buddy Walk taking place Saturday Oct. 7 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mt. Nittany Middle School in State College.

Buddy Walks are events held across the United States to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down Syndrome.

“There’s going to be games, prizes and raffles and you get to walk as a fundraiser to support the many many activities that the Down Syndrome Society gives to our community. I hope everyone turns out,” said Ebersole.

Dershem asked Haley about other events taking place throughout the month, and she spoke excitedly about raffles and prizes.

Those who would like to participate may register in advance or do so the day of.

The Centre County Commissioners will meet again Tuesday, Oct. 10 at 10 a.m.

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