Computer Engineers and the Effort to Increase Cybersecurity

Computer Engineers and the Effort to Increase Cybersecurity

Computers have such a big role in the everyday lives of so many people. They are starting to become implemented into technologies that are just seen as regular household objects. Cars, refrigerators, phones, and even heating and cooling for housing are starting to have very complex computer systems integrated into them that make these technologies have so much more use and increase their efficiency and easiness to use.

One big issue that comes up with having so many computers, however, is cybersecurity and keeping the users of such systems safe. Hacking is an issue that is constantly evolving to surpass newest security standards. Hackers can take control of computers and use them to advantage, insert bugs and viruses, and steal information. Malicious people are constantly trying to find ways to bypass security measures and harm the lives of others. However, computer engineers are also constantly conducting research and changing computers to prevent hackers from invading the lives of the people that use these products. People make a living from keeping us all safe on our computers and preventing interference of others into our lives. These are just some examples of the important work being done.

Antivirus software: not what it used to be

            Back in the old days, antivirus software (AV) was a must have. Viruses needed to be opened by the user, and they spread relatively slowly. AV assisted in stopping these attacks before they spread enough. However, AV is not as helpful as it once was, and studies show that it may actually cause more harm than good.

Recent studies have been showing that antivirus software is actually doing harm to the computer and, in some cases, letting the hackers in. Researchers at Concordia University tested fourteen commonly used antivirus software and found that most of them resulted in lower security than if the AV was not installed.

So how is antivirus software, something that is supposed to prevent hacking, create opportunities for attacks? One such way is called a man in the middle attack. AV software creates a man in the middle situation for anything you do on the internet. It checks everything that happens to make sure it is secure. However, AV software installs at a very low level in the operating system that it can affect so much with the computer, so if someone hacks into the AV software, it is possible to control these man in the middle interactions and steal vital user information.

Cars need computer security as well?

            The simple answer is yes. As smart car technology has been kicking off and rapidly developing, one risk comes from this, and that is the potential for hackers to interfere. Smart cars are run by complex computers that control a lot of their functions. If, however, a hacker can get into this computer, much of the functions of the car can be controlled, everything from the radio to safety alerts, and possibly even how the car drives.

Dr. Shucheng Yu and his student, Zachary King, of University of Arkansas at Little Rock, have been researching how to prevent cars from being hacked. An easy way for hackers to get into a smart car is through the Controller Area Network (CAN), an internal communications system in vehicles. Hackers can utilize replay attacks, or sending an old message multiple times to get into the network and take control. The researchers found a way to fix this by using a timestamp to indicate how new a message is. Only if that message was sent within the timestamp would it go through.

Dr. Richard Enbody, a computer science major at Michigan State University, teamed up with Ford to help protect against hackers of smart cars. When asked about problems associated with the CAN, he said, “In particular is the OBD-II port that you can plug devices into, such as what Progressive Insurance provides.” These devices are able to get a connection to the internet, and hackers can hop onto the network and take control of the car that way.  It’s a very easy way to hack a car, according to Dr. Enbody, and solutions are still


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