Connected devices are everywhere — from our phones and doorbell cameras to our cars and smart infrastructures — and the security of those devices is critical. Cybersecurity needs to be everyone’s responsibility; we must all work together to create a safer environment for this generation and those to come.
Since 2004, the President of the United States declared October to be Cybersecurity Awareness Month, led by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the National Cybersecurity Alliance. This year’s theme — “See Yourself in Cyber” — demonstrates that while cybersecurity may seem like a complex subject, it’s really about the people.
In this Q&A, Arizona State University experts Nadya Bliss, executive director of the Global Security Initiative, and Jamie Winterton, director of strategy at the Global Security Initiative, discuss how cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility, how can you protect yourself online and what can we do about cybersecurity challenges.
Nadya Bliss: Computing and connected devices are literally in every aspect of our lives and we put so much trust in them to help us function as individuals and as a broader society – from helping us organize our day to tracking our exercise to managing the worldwide supply chain of critical goods. As a result, the security of those devices is paramount.
Jamie Winterton: So many of the building blocks of society are connected to the internet, so I think it really counts as critical infrastructure at this point.
Here is some practical advice from Bliss and Winterton.
Winterton: The first reason is the pay — cybersecurity professionals tend to be paid very well. There are so many ways to participate in cybersecurity, and I think that gets missed sometimes. There are needs in governance, compliance, in policy and in being a security evangelist to users and communicators. All of these are sorely needed today.
A second reason is the fact that careers in cybersecurity drive real-world impact. You are doing something which protects those who may not be able to protect themselves. When we create more secure technology, we are asking users to take on less burden, and also less risk.
Bliss: Thinking like a hacker does not necessarily require a technical background; there are great cybersecurity professionals who have backgrounds in history, philosophy and theater. Many studies show that there is a labor shortage in cybersecurity. As technology evolves and increasingly becomes prevalent, opportunities continue to rise. An employee on this desired career path is guaranteed a growth trajectory due to the many opportunities to learn different techniques, modalities and operations within cybersecurity.
Bliss: We have an overfocus on capability and an underfocus on security, which is often relegated to a secondary consideration. Also, the cost of vulnerabilities continues to rise — from the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack to the Equifax data breaches — and the shift we see now is that people realize the importance of security. We need a different set of incentive structures in order for things to improve at a steady rate, and the next step is implementation.
Winterton: In the infosecinformation security community, we hear about companies that create job postings that do not match the actual need. Yes, we need more people in the field, but we need to hire the right people, with the right experience, as well.
Learn more about how ASU is addressing the deficit of cybersecurity.
The following predictions from Winterton and Bliss look ahead over the next five to 10 years:
Bliss: We tend to be more excited by novelty than we are about security, and I think we need to pause and ask ourselves, “Do I need this household item to be connected to the internet?” Also, we need to connect the communities of those who build the systems and those who use them. We should ensure a better understanding of the vulnerability space at all education levels, from kindergarten all the way up.
Winterton: In the United States, we have an overlap between the public and private sectors, and the regulation and governance across those spaces will always be a grand challenge. There are unique issues when privately-owned companies that perform public good are breached or fall victim to ransomware, like Colonial Pipeline. The challenges increase when we look at the international level, and we do not as of yet have an international consortium to address cybersecurity issues. This is possibly the grandest challenge of all.
Winterton: We cannot fix cybersecurity issues without a radical interdisciplinary approach, and at ASU, we have the edge through the Center for Cybersecurity and Trusted Foundations. One of the focuses of the (center) is to give people hands-on experience in real-world situations.
ASU has a wide range of offerings in cybersecurity training and education that enable people to pursue different career paths in the field. In addition to formal degrees through the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence and other academic units, ASU is engaged in experiential learning – through efforts like supporting student hacking clubs and organizing Capture the Flag competitions, including in the past organizing the largest in the world at DEF CON.
Learn about ASU’s involvement in DEF CON.
The Global Security Initiative is partially supported by Arizona’s Technology and Research Initiative Fund. TRIF investment has enabled hands-on training for tens of thousands of students across Arizona’s universities, thousands of scientific discoveries and patented technologies, and hundreds of new startup companies. Publicly supported through voter approval, TRIF is an essential resource for growing Arizona’s economy and providing opportunities for Arizona residents to work, learn and thrive.
Top image: Jamie Winterton (left) and Nadya Bliss.
Manager of Marketing and Communications, Knowledge Enterprise , Global Security Initiative
Biological sensing devices or biosensors have myriad applications, from disease monitoring and drug discovery to pollution detection, plant biology and food safety.In new research, Shaopeng Wang and his colleagues at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors describe a method capable of keenly imaging the behavior of small molecules that have often eluded conv…
Biological sensing devices or biosensors have myriad applications, from disease monitoring and drug discovery to pollution detection, plant biology and food safety.
In new research, Shaopeng Wang and his colleagues at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors describe a method capable of keenly imaging the behavior of small molecules that have often eluded conventional biosensing technologies.
The research will help investigators better understand the subtle interplay of biomolecules — essential information for improving the detection of a range of diseases as well as for the design of more effective drugs.
The research appears in the current issue of the journal ACS Sensors, which has been selected by the journal as an editor’s choice, a recognition highlighting only the top papers published across the ACS portfolio.
The new technique is a variation on surface plasmon resonance (SPR) detection. SPR is an optical phenomenon, useful for measuring the binding of molecules in real time without conventional use of florescent labels, which can interfere with the molecular activities under study. SPR has been used to quantitatively measure the binding between two proteins, a protein and an antibody, DNA and a protein, and many other biological interactions.
One of the most attractive features of SPR is its ability not only to detect specific binding events but to accurately sense the dynamic changes occurring during molecular bindings and disassociations. SPR devices accomplish this by detecting subtle changes in the refractive index of light.
A sensor chip consisting of a glass slide coated with a thin gold film is used for detection. Molecular probes known as ligands are affixed to the surface of the sensor slide, and fluid containing the biomolecules to be detected (analytes) flow across this surface.
As a light source passes through a prism, it reflects off the underside of the sensor chip surface and into a detector. At a certain incident angle known as the resonance angle, light is absorbed by the electrons in the metal film of the sensor chip, causing them to resonate. These resonating electrons, known as surface plasmons, are sensitive to their surrounding environment, providing information about binding activities at the sensor surface.
An oscillating biolayer (OBL) is fabricated on a gold film, seen in this zoom-in image. Diagram left side: The OBL consists of a protein receptor layer connected to the surface via a flexible polymer cushion. The receptors are charged in solution, thus can oscillate with the applied electric field. Binding of ligand to the receptor alters the size, charge and conformation of the receptor, and hence the oscillation. Diagram right side: The binding and dissociation of the ligands lead to mass and charge change to the OBL. The DC and AC component of the OBL signal are separated, which arise from the surface reflectivity (mass) change and oscillation amplitude (charge) change, respectively.
The study demonstrates the power of the new method, highlighting the delicate binding kinetics of protein-antibody pairs, membrane proteins with small molecules, protein-ion interactions and enzyme-substrate detections.
This expansion of SPR detection sensitivity has many possible applications, particularly for investigating small-molecule drugs, which make up over half the drugs approved each year by the FDA.
While most such detection relies on changes in mass occurring at the sensor surface during a molecular binding event, traditional methods struggle to detect these mass alterations when the molecules are too tiny.
To overcome this limitation, the new technique affixes the detecting ligands to the sensor surface in a unique way. Instead of attaching them statically, as with conventional SPR, these ligands are embedded in a monolayer of protein with flexible linkers known as a biolayer at the sensor surface. The ligand-bearing biolayer is able to oscillate when an alternating electric field is applied.
Changes in the oscillations of the biolayer during binding and disassociation events provide additional information on charge and conformation, in addition to mass changes, enabling very precise detection even in the case of extremely small analyte molecules.
Science writer, Biodesign Institute at ASU