Tech, Policy, and Research: How the Computer Science and Engineering Community Is Responding to Cybercrime
Cybercrime continues to intensify around the globe. In fact, a new report from Check Point Research concluded that the first half of 2022 was met with a 42 percent increase in weekly cyberattacks globally, with every region experiencing a significant escalation.
While there is no silver bullet for thwarting attacks, growing cyber issues have increased the demand for advanced solutions to scan, evaluate, and ultimately safeguard against system and human vulnerabilities. That directive translates to novel approaches for both building infrastructure and shoring up data in ways that stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.
A Computer Science Role
“Advances in computer science and engineering will provide very good value to strengthen our cybersecurity protocols,” said Cyril Onwubiko, senior director, enterprise security architecture at Pearson – the world’s learning company. “These include big data, integration, and interoperability.”
Dr. Onwubiko points out that the more widespread accessibility and usability of big data have provided significant opportunities for strengthening security testing. Because data now exists in systems, sub systems, and different environments, cyber experts can apply it in varied testing protocols, which will improve system strength, and possibly even more important, confirm information veracity.
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“Big data gives us trustworthiness,” noted Dr. Onwubiko. “We can confirm the data is reliable, quality data, and therefore we increase the efficacy of the results from those trials or tests. It gives us something that we didn’t have before.”
In addition, Dr. Onwubiko points to enhanced system integrations and technical interoperability as advanced pathways to cybersecurity research. These two developments enable information exchange in new ways and allow greater investigation of the hand-offs between systems. By exploring these hand-offs and systems’ individual and combined protocols, experts can strengthen security properties and identify and address potential limitations or liabilities.
The Policy Play
However, as the visibility of attacks and countermeasures gains the attention of global governments, the politics surrounding cybersecurity matter as much as the scientific and engineering developments. Technical advancements are leading to innovative solutions in the fight against cybercrime, but on a parallel track, policy issues are emerging, stemming from the solutions themselves as well as growing considerations around data privacy and individual protections. In fact, these implications have risen to top billing in the first three episodes of IEEE CS’ new security podcast, Over the Rainbow: 21st Century Security & Privacy.
“There’s a theme that runs through our early episodes, which is the extent to which government policy has profound influence on security, both on the market and on the definition of the problem and its solutions,” remarked Dr. Bob Blakley, operating partner, Team8, a global venture group based in New York and Tel Aviv, and the podcast’s cohost. “The interest in that arises partly because security is so difficult, and the technical measures alone are unlikely to solve the problem. Government incentives really matter, and work is being done by legislators and regulators to carve out an initial approach.”
The Future Landscape
Landing at the intersection of scientific development, policy considerations, and public impact, cybersecurity will remain a high-stakes topic for the near future, and one that demands ongoing support from the computer science and engineering community.
“There will be an increase in the cybersecurity UX [user experience],” noted Dr. Onwubiko. “Enterprise is driving digital transformation, new ways of working, and business models and is requiring more. There will be high demand for a cybersecurity user experience—one that is omnichannel across different platforms—which will require a massive technology core to support it frictionlessly, seamlessly, and securely.”
And with cybersecurity as a research focus on the rise, the workforce to support it will be an important future need—one that the computer science and engineering community can help fulfill.
“I would go back to something that [podcast guest] Michael Alan Specter said. You will get drawn into interdisciplinary issues, and you should embrace that,” noted Dr. Blakley. “Security is deep; you really have to understand the minutest details of a system to know where issues lie, but it’s also extremely broad, you have to be able to see how it fits into a big picture.”
Fortunately, leaders exemplifying both of those skill sets can be found within the computer science and engineering community.
“There are commonalities between computer science and engineering and cybersecurity; the same principles apply in both,” concluded Dr. Onwubiko. “Those in computer science and engineering that see cybersecurity as an area of interest should consider exploring it further.”
To dive deeper into the role computer science and engineering can play in cybersecurity, check out IEEE Security and Privacy magazine, the Computer Society’s Technical Community on Security and Privacy, and the IEEE S&P Conference.