Tag: computer engineering

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

Computer Engineers: They Are More Than What You Think

Computer Engineers: They Are More Than What You Think

When you think of a computer engineer, what kind of images pop up in your head? What is that person doing right now? What is he or she like? If you are an engineer, you should know this answer. At least I hope so. But if not, you are probably thinking of some quiet, nerdy, super smart, lonely guy sitting in his cubicle, typing some code that makes no sense. Some engineers may be like this, but I can tell you from my undergraduate experience that students studying to be computer engineers, and even graduated computer engineers, need a lot more skills and do a lot more work than that to be successful. Here are some required qualities of undergraduate computer engineers:

  1. Computer engineers need to know how to write well, and do it often during their job

One big misconception of engineers in general is that they don’t write much at all in their job. However, this is not the case. When asked what other field of study would help undergraduate computer engineers, Dr. Richard Enbody, a computer science professor at Michigan State University, said, “Something involving writing — it is the hardest thing to learn on your own.” Whether it is writing memos to your higher ups about your project you are working on, or you are sending a request for materials or time, writing skills are needed in order to stay organized, stay professional, and quite frankly, get what you want.

Even in computer programming, a task that is all done on a computer, writing is still used to get things done. My own experiences confirm the need for good writing skills. In my first programming class I took at Michigan State University, my professor told us students that in order to code most efficiently, a key step was to write down and plan out how we were going to tackle the problem in order to stay on track and not lose focus. This advice helped me immensely, as writing code became so much quicker and easier after first writing it down. And trust me, computer engineer undergrads will take a lot of programming classes

  1. Computer engineers need social skills (I know, shocking, right?)

Being able to communicate ideas and collaborate with others is a big part of any engineering job, because most projects engineers take part of are done in groups. In my time as an undergraduate computer engineer, there would have been no way I could have finished a project to create a lego robot I was given without a group and social skills.

Computer engineers need social skills to get a job in the first place. Making connections with others in the field is a huge advantage, and knowing how to answer interview questions is also a big asset. Luckily, a nice reward of this major is that job opportunities are huge. You learn a lot of different skills that can apply to many fields, so if the first interview doesn’t go well, don’t sweat it too much; there are so many more positions open. A lot of engineers dream of working for big companies, like Google, which is a nice concept, but it is not an easy position to get into. However, because the demand for computer engineers is so high, because of the need for new technology, job security and opportunities for that career is very high

  1. They know a lot more than just what their field requires

No, computer engineers don’t just know how to sit and build computers. Colleges prepare computer engineering students for a wide variety of tasks, like coding, computer hardware and software development, working with groups and writing memos, and the list goes on. They take classes pertaining to computer programming, computer architecture, software development, and even about electrical circuits.

The classes required are in wide variety as well. One class I am required to take to graduate is biomedical instrumentation. When I first saw it on the list, I wasn’t sure why it would be of use. I don’t know the first thing about biology, anyways. However, computer engineers are able to take up jobs that are so varying and unlike one another, and some jobs work with the technology behind medical instruments and so many other technologies. They may even find jobs in other fields, like electrical engineering or computer science. Computer engineering can be for anyone, no matter their interest.