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Addressing The Evolving Challenges Of Cybersecurity


Last week, cyber attackers took on targets ranging from the White House to the town of Cleburne in North Texas.

Russians are suspected of trying to break into unclassified White House computers. And hackers broke into Cleburne’s system after a police officer shot and killed a dog.

The University of Texas at Dallas' Cyber Security Research Institute celebrated its 10th anniversary last week – and the executive director, BhavaniThuraisingham, joined KERA's Justin Martin for a conversation about the challenges of online security.   

Interview Highlights: Bhavani Thuraisingham

... On denial-of-service attacks:

"What happens with those attacks is that instead of stealing information from the computers – what happens here is that they plant malware to slow down the machine. Which means the resources will not be available to the legitimate users. And so that’s called the 'denial of service.'"

... On how companies and governments can protect themselves from cyber warfare:

"This is a big challenge that we have -- because we are being attacked in all directions. There are these rogue nations, there are these teenaged hackers who are attacking us and so we’ve got to be really vigilant. We need to make sure our machines and networks are healthy – we have to make sure that we change our passwords – and we’ve got to be several steps ahead of the attackers and that’s easier said than done."

... On the history of UTD's Cybersecurity Institute and the direction it's headed:

"In 2004, although the word cybersecurity had been coined, it was still very early. When I joined UT-Dallas, I think the UT-Dallas administration -- they were thinking ahead -- and so we built it step-by-step. I was just a one-woman show at the time, and then we grew it to 10 professors working entirely in cybersecurity in our engineer school and we also do a lot of interdisciplinary research with risk analysis, economists and cognitive neuroscience."

... On poverty's role in digital crime:

"I cannot make a strong correlation between poverty and attacks, but people are recruiting hackers and giving them money for them to join their organizations. So from that point of view, poverty could play a role."

Justin Martin is KERA’s local host of All Things Considered, anchoring afternoon newscasts for KERA 90.1. Justin grew up in Mannheim, Germany, and avidly listened to the Voice of America and National Public Radio whenever stateside. He graduated from the American Broadcasting School, and further polished his skills with radio veteran Kris Anderson of the Mighty 690 fame, a 50,000 watt border-blaster operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. Justin has worked as holiday anchor for the USA Radio Network, serving the U.S. Armed Forces Network. He’s also hosted, produced, and engineered several shows, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee on 660 KSKY.