By Glen Whitley, director of the Center of Innovation for IT
*Note: this article first appeared in Automation.com.
Protecting digital information has never been more of a priority for governments, businesses, families and individuals. News headlines are rife with stories of cyber-attacks, and the high-profile nature of these attacks – from the theft of credit card information at major national retailers, to the recent “ransomware” attack at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. As information becomes more accessible online, we must pay more attention than ever to protecting the integrity and security of the information we collect and store. The arms race between those who are seeking to illegally access information and those attempting to safeguard it is intensifying.
The state of Georgia is fast becoming a cyber security hub, with more than 25 percent of the worldwide security revenue market share being generated by companies in Georgia.
In order to address the needs of this leading industry sector, the Georgia Center of Innovation for IT serves as a resource to connect our in-state research centers, information security organizations, and end user community. The goal is to keep Georgia at the forefront of information security and ensure it is a place where organizations can find the best and brightest information security companies to help their businesses.
As organizations continue to bolster the security of their networks on the front end, the introduction of new connected technologies chips away at security on the back end. The Internet of Things (IoT) environment is expanding at a staggering pace. Machine-to-machine communication continues to grow and integrate with our lives and thus connected data networks are becoming massive. There clearly is a wide array of benefits that come along with technologies within the IoT movement, from quality-of-life to convenience, but there also are inherent associated risks. The proliferation of sensors that gather and communicate data introduces new entry points for cyber criminals, who seek to hack into networks. IoT necessitates cloud-based applications to interpret and transmit all the sensory data and the need for improved security, surrounding these apps, is paramount. The cloud enables us to work with this information, anytime and anywhere, but also affords cyber criminals the same opportunities. Imagine a cybercriminal were to hack into your personal smart fridge at home. While inconvenient, that’s not a very big deal. Now imagine that same cybercriminal hacking into an industrial cold storage warehouse and shutting down all the freezers. That kind of hack could cause millions of pounds of produce or dairy to spoil, and ultimately could have a devastating economic impact on an entire region.
Georgia is home to two organizations working around the clock, conducting signals intelligence operations and detecting emerging cyber security threats. The National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) opened the $286 million Georgia Cryptologic Center in 2012 and the U.S. Army just opened its new Cyber Command (ARCYBER) Headquarters in Augusta, which will bring 1,400 cyber security experts to the state of Georgia. Organizations and facilities like these matter – State and federal governments have become much more actively involved in cyber security efforts. Cyber-attacks are a threat to the safety and security of the general public in ways never before imagined. Hacktivists can now force their way into things such as patient monitors in a hospital, shutting them down and jeopardizing the critical care capabilities a hospital can offer. More creative attacks, such as the ransomware attack perpetrated at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, also are becoming commonplace. Whether driven by personal agenda or for financial gain, these attacks will continue to happen and will become more brazen.
The race to fight back against hackers is real, and we need more recruits on the front lines to combat these nameless, faceless cyber criminals. Georgia Tech is one of the nation’s top-ranked computing and engineering schools, and is producing some of the best information security talent in the industry, thanks to its Institute for Information Security & Privacy, as well as rigorous continuing education for professionals. Georgia Tech is one of just 14 universities, nationwide, designated as a University Affiliated Research Center for the Department of Defense. In addition, four University System of Georgia institutions have NSA certified programs with more on the way. The combination of a well-prepared cyber security workforce and informed and supportive business environment allow us to better protect our sensitive data from future attacks. But most importantly, it’s essential for public and private entities work together to better share information about cyber threats.
Georgia has excellent research, industry and technology associations, along with state and local government resources that are working together in the fight against cybercrime.