The stakes have never been higher for organizations, In a major breach last year, hackers who investigators say are linked to North Korea stole reams of data from Sony Pictures, including internal emails, and threatened attacks on theaters showing “The Interview,” the studio’s comedy about a plot to assassinate the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un. Other major corporations such as Target Corp., Neiman Marcus Inc., and Home Depot Inc., have been hacked, along with popular social media applications such as Snapchat.
There are also issues over digital privacy in education settings, as the number of cloud-based digital startups aiming to help school districts manage student data continues to grow. Such companies store sensitive information from students, including disciplinary records and family and health history, often in perpetuity. In August, a high-profile educational technology startup, InBloom, closed after protests from parents.
And those examples are child’s play compared to what we now know about global government surveillance and spying in the wake of the Snowden revelations, which demonstrated that we now have nations monitoring other nations’ activities and using the Internet as a form of warfare or terrorist threats. Cyber-threats to any nation can range from disruption of an agency’s networks or information services to the public to cyber-warfare. Depending on the agency, type of cyber-attack, its scope, duration, and effectiveness, the consequences for the online and offline operation of local, federal, or state government components can range from annoying delays in communications to serious damage to infrastructure threatening life or property.
Can we do anything to protect ourselves, short of giving up on using our computers or smart phones? In the interview, Yvo Desmedt, the Jonsson Distinguished Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Dallas, discusses the relentless hammering of new software vulnerabilities, the increasing sophistication of attackers, and misplaced optimism, which assumes that we have adequate means of establishing some form of “cyber security” to protect ourselves from this overweening surveillance on the part of both the private sector and the government.