Cybersecurity, a term with manifold implications that concern virtually every sector of society, was the topic of discussion during Science Wednesday, an open forum discussion Aug. 29 at Kings Live Music in downtown Conway.
Bartenders served libations and members of the crowd munched on pizza while three panelists fielded questions on cybersecurity that varied from personal security on the web to the technical operations hackers can employ to commit crimes online.
The three panelists at the event were Professor of Physics and Dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Stephen Addison, Associate Professor of Political Science Mary Sullivan and engineer Zach King, who runs the new cyber range at UCA.
“Cybersecurity is a really important issue that we have late in the game realized how important it is,” Sullivan said in response to a question about the current state of cybersecurity. “We should be devoting a lot more of our energy and a lot more of our resources to it. We also must educate people in cybersecurity.”
Addison said that the threat to the U.S. as a whole on the front of cybersecurity is one that should concern people. In one example, Addison cited a UPS Cyber Liability study that showed the risk cyber attacks pose to small businesses. The study found that after being the target of a cyberattack, small businesses have a 75 percent chance of going out of business in the next three months.
King jumped in and added that most small businesses can invest in cybersecurity, but that most don’t due to its effect on their bottom line.
“We live in the most
cyber-connected nation on the Earth. Everything is on the internet: refrigerators, irons, water supply, the electrical supply. Almost everything,” Addison said.
The devastating effects of cyberattacks and the near limitless number of potential targets likely played a role in the recent acquisition of a cyber range on UCA’s campus. The range’s purpose is to train students in the detection and prevention of cyber attacks. Addison said cyber range demonstrations are scheduled for the near future.
King said he thinks the reason the U.S. has so much trouble addressing the problem of cybersecurity is because of the stringent requirements for working on government systems.
“As far as the government sector is concerned, you have to have a top secret clearance,” King said. “To acquire a top secret clearance, it takes two years.”
King concluded that this inevitably leads to a perpetual shortage of cybersecurity workers.
The discussion did not focus squarely on existential threats. Other questions posed by the crowd turned the conversation in a more pragmatic and personal direction. One such question focused on the ways companies try to get the upper hand against one another in cyberspace in order to convince consumers to buy their products. Addison said that, ethical considerations aside, the extent to which advertisers can reach customers due to their searches illustrates the degree of interconnectivity on the internet.
Science Wednesday is on the last Wednesday of every month. The next panel is
Sept. 26, and the topic at hand will be the science of identity.
Science Wednesday is planned, sponsored and moderated by faculty and students of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the STEM Residential Hall.
Photo and story by Taylor Sone