With every passing day, there is immense development of technology making everything easier for us. But the radical truth here is that it makes things similarly easy for the bad guys, if not more, to exploit us naïve users of the internet. Innumerable hacking organisations and cybervillans out there are spreading terror and the world needs a lot of cyber heroes to take them out.
Northeastern University is training many of those good guys, not just on campus at the College of Computer and Information Science and the Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute, but also beyond it. In 2018 spring six computer science students represented the university at the National Cyber Defense Competition, organized by the US Department of Energy. The competition simulated real-time scenarios of a cyberattack and checked how students fared. While the stakes weren’t as high as in an actual cyberattack, it gave the students a life-like experience. “After the competition, they joked that in no other circumstances would anyone be able to squeeze so much knowledge and skills and tricks into that short a span of time,” said Tamara Bonaci, an assistant teaching professor in computer science.
The competition was a new experience for Susanna Edens, a graduate with a Masters in computer science who usually participated as an attacker. “We were the ones getting hacked,” said Edens. “We had to do research on how to protect our web server, how to set up a secure email server, how to protect industrial control systems. That was such a different mindset.”
“Cybersecurity is basically embedded in a lot of things,” said Nay Htet, a graduate student in computer science and one of the cyber warriors at this competition. He called the experience “terrifying”. Although the students didn’t win a prize, they did leave with a critical lesson, said graduate student Vinay Preet Singh: That they still have a lot to learn about cybersecurity.
The most problematic feature of cybersecurity is the constantly evolving and unpredictable nature of security risks. Cases of theft and privacy invasion are tragically frequent all over the world. Cybersecurity has become a critical requirement and need of the day. “It has just grown tremendously over the last five years or so,” said Bonaci. “It feels more urgent than ever to be a part of it.” As a result of security risks, investments in cybersecurity technologies and services are increasing. The cybersecurity market is expected to more than double from $75 billion in 2015 to $170 billion in 2020.