After a global cyberattack hit millions of computers in more than 150 countries, there’s high demand for cybersecurity, and questions over whether there is any defense against modern hackers.
It’s a wake up call for world leaders and security experts – the ransomware attack that seized millions of computers and impacted thousands of companies.
In the aftermath of the chaos, there is only one question: can hackers be stopped?
“As soon as it’s solved, I’ll give you a call,” said Golden Richard, the associate director for cybersecurity at LSU’s Center for Computation and Technology.
He hopes his students can provide relief from malware attacks in the future.
“My students learn how to take apart malware and figure out how it works, and the hope is by studying it you develop defenses, and you certainly develop defenses against things you’ve seen before,” said Richard.
In a newly developed educational field, Richard was recruited by LSU to help kick off the program, having started up one already at the University of New Orleans. His first malware reversal class was taught this past spring semester, but he acknowledges the challenges in the field.
“The problem is that there is a huge shortage of well-educated cybersecurity experts. I think one of the Gardner Reports recently was there was like a million and a half empty seats.”
Empty seats leave openings for hackers, who now have monetary incentive to gather all of our most sensitive information.
“Some of the hacking organizations are making 10, 20, 30 million dollars a month doing ransomware, so it’s a real threat, and we are sort of hopelessly looking for solutions,” said Richard. “You see attacks against things like point of sale systems that scrape credit card data, you see spyware and ransomware that not only does things like encrypts your files, but also monitors web browsing activity and steals banking credentials.”
On a larger scale, the state and the nation can, and are, put at risk.
“There’s a lot of worry about things like the grid and infrastructure systems because they’re old and they predate the web and modern networking – crusty, old and potentially riddled with vulnerabilities,” said Richard. “It’s a real concern, so you’re seeing increasing amounts of research across the nation and in Louisiana on control systems security. It’s a big deal.”
He says we now see these programs pop up because there is faculty to teach the courses…but there is yet another roadblock.
“Academics haven’t actually had exposure to the real systems, and the equipment is expensive, so duplicating that environment so you can do the real research is hard,” Richard said.
So, if hackers are evolving at a faster rate than cybersecurity is developing, how can you protect yourself in the meantime?
“Don’t use computers, would be a start,” said Richard. “You can be very, very careful. I think the most important aspects is not being very interesting. If you are a high profile target you’re done.”
Here are some other tips:
Don’t click on strange links or attachments in emails.
Don’t open emails or attachments from senders you don’t recognize.
Analyze the email messages you receive.
Create complex and different passwords for all accounts.
Use fake answers for security questions.
Use 2-step verification to connect computer accounts to your mobile number.
“Conduct business in person or over the phone. Most legit organizations won’t ask you for credentials through email because they’re aware of these threats. I think if they do, then you should find another organization,” said Richard.