UCR practices for cyber threats against special archives

Drill aimed at preparing campus emergency response and seeking grant funding

July 20, 2022
Author: Imran Ghori
July 20, 2022

It began with angry social media messages before ballooning into full threats and a takeover of UC Riverside computer systems controlling fire sprinklers at Tomas Rivera Library.

That was the scenario of a cultural heritage preservation and cybersecurity drill held Wednesday, July 13 that included 25 participants from campus departments and off-campus partners who reacted in real-time to a fictional threat to the campus.

UCR's Office of Emergency Management held a training drill July 13, 2022, reacting to a cyber threat to cultural heritage items. (Imran Ghori/UCR)

It was first drill of its type on campus aimed at preserving irreplaceable heritage and special collections against cybersecurity threats, said Jason Espinoza, director of UCR’s Office of Emergency Management.

But it won’t be the last. Additional drills are planned in the coming months to help campus better prepare for different types of emergencies, he said.

“This is an accelerated process the Office of Emergency Management is ramping up to bring the campus to a level of familiarization in dealing with emergencies and doing it in a way that throws people into an event in a safe way where they can identify their personal, professional, and organizational strengths,” Espinoza said. 

These drills build off recently updated campus emergency operations plans that include guiding principles for a more prepared and resilient campus, he said.

Holding such exercises increases UCR’s chances of winning grant funding from the Homeland Security National Training Program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Funding would provide UCR with additional resources for emergency readiness and planning, Espinoza said.

The exercise, held in the emergency operations center at the Environmental Health and Safety building, was led by members of the California State Guard, which has a Heritage Emergency Response Team.

Participants included UCR Library, Information Technology Solutions, UCR police, San Manuel archives and emergency management, and federal, state, and local agencies, alongside UCR’s Office of Emergency Management, which organized the drill.

During the training exercise, participants reacted to each step of the threat as it grew more serious, describing what they would do. Library staff members discussed how they would handle an evacuation and their ability to protect rare books and collections. Information Technology Solutions described how they would assess and react to threats to campus computer systems.

The group scored a 9.5 out of 10 in an assessment following the exercise performed by the California State Guard, Espinoza said. The training allowed them to identify areas where communication can be improved, become familiar with the process to follow during an emergency, and meet other campus partners, he said.

“The biggest thing in these exercises is to get everyone to the table and engaged,” said Thomas Stoner, business continuity manager for the Office of Emergency Management.

For more information on emergency management or procedures, please visit the website at Emergency.ucr.edu. If you or your department are interested in similar training opportunities, contact Jason Espinoza at 951-827-4255 or jasone@ucr.edu.