These days, the term “cybersecurity” has become almost a certain kind of buzzword. Scouring through internet blogs, popular magazines, and respected news outlets, the term has become omnipresent, inescapable, representing the countless privacy and security concerns for which it has become a stand-in. Why is cybersecurity of particular interest now? For starters, hardly a week goes by without news of a major security breach. An old term, with roots in the advent of the internet, cybersecurity is an old field that is receiving much renewed attention. To the average person, it conjures up thoughts of credit card fraud, faulty online payment systems, hasty social networking, lethal computer viruses, and inescapable email threats. The problem doesn’t end there, though: as our daily lives become saturated with new technology with potential security gaps, it is of vital importance for target groups to educate both employees and users on maintaining a “healthy” level of security, and crucial for businesses to strategically and proactively detect and mitigate security issues before they happen.
Due to increased technical threats, greater economic exposure, and unprecedented dependence on cyberinfrastructure, it is critical for organizations to take a stance that is not just defensive, but offensive; not just a quick-fix, but preventative. One new IEEE entity aims to help organizations do just this. As cybersecurity concerns have become increasingly prevalent in today’s world, the IEEE Computer Society recently launched an initiative with the aim of expanding and escalating its ongoing involvement in the field of cybersecurity. The IEEE Cybersecurity Initiative is dedicated to providing knowledge to both practitioners and interested parties on tackling cybersecurity issues and building a more powerful workforce in the space. Supporting projects such as the IEEE Center for Secure Design, which intends to shift some of the focus in security from finding bugs to identifying common design flaws, the IEEE Cybersecurity Initiative offers a place where software architects can learn from each other’s mistakes and share preventative solutions, to make our systems less vulnerable and more secure.
With new devices being so rapidly introduced in the Internet of Things, coupled with the demand for innovation in cybersecurity solutions, goals outside simply identifying and preventing security issues must be addressed. In both the private and public sectors, the increased risk of cyber-attacks and prevalence of security and privacy issues within critical infrastructures is driving a demand for more cybersecurity professionals. Tackling a shortage of qualified workers trained in cybersecurity principles has positioned itself to be one of the technology workforce’s next big challenges. While cybersecurity has globally been identified as a major concern, as challenges begin to stack up, developing a pipeline of skilled professionals to address issues in this area is not merely a desire, but a necessity. Cybersecurity will create many new high-skilled jobs.
The IEEE, along with its industry partners, is committed to introducing the next generation of tech professionals to cybersecurity careers and helping them build skills that will hopefully lead to an interest in solving privacy and security problems. On 26 April, 2015, IEEE Women in Engineering and IEEE Cybersecurity Initiative, along with Cisco Systems, organized a one-day hackathon event in San Jose, California, USA, encouraging participants to achieve “innovation through collaboration” in the field of Enterprise Internet of Things (EIoT). The development of EIoT, the network of physical objects accessed through internet technology within an enterprise network, can ultimately allow enterprise users to provide more control and be more fiscally responsible. As analysts forecast that intelligent building systems automation is expected to grow into a $100B market by 2020, the race to develop EIoT infrastructures is not just intensifying; however, tackling the new security concerns that are constantly brought to the attention of developers as new networks are put in place has become an imperative. Hackathon participants, equipped with their own laptops, were provided with EIoT Development kits, which contained multiple types of sensors and other materials. They were then tasked with solving a problem important to them and relevant to society using these materials, and asked to address both potential and actual security issues in doing so. Teams were required to present their ideas to a team of judges, including a business case, possible disruptions, and potential issues, and then give a short demo of the solution they had built.
Highlights of the hackathon included a system of pill bottles connected to a network and equipped with sensors that recognize when doses are taken and send notifications to patients and guardians; an EIoT-based parking system that notifies car owners when electric vehicles must be moved from corporate charging stations; sensors that detect water use and management, providing incentives to frugality; and sensor-based improvement of employee workplace experience using intelligent human detection. In each presentation and demonstration, teams impressively and eloquently used their skills to answer queries about inherent privacy issues that each product must pose, and then eventually overcome. It became clear, at the end of the day, that despite the immense effort it will take to build a cybersecurity workforce large enough to combat the many challenges that lie ahead, a new generation of technology professionals is committed to developing a skill set to face these challenges head on, with guidance from both industry and nonprofit initiatives to lead them forward toward an era of cybersecurity focus.