Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Fall 2017 - 4
PRESIDENT'S VIEW | SHIRLEY ANN JACKSON, PH.D.
towers. What if the data is manipulated, so that what air traffic
controllers see no longer matches
physical reality? The potential
damage could make TSA checkpoints meaningless.
Finally, there are security risks
even in the sheer ubiquity and
accessibility of information in our
world, which offer terrorists recipes for bombs, and the ability to
radicalize people remotely.
Clearly, our reliance on data-
and our interconnectedness-
encompasses many intersecting
vulnerabilities with potentially
cascading consequences. Can we
deter all such security risks? It is
more likely that we will be able to
detect and to mitigate them.
We need technological solutions. Can we design our data
ing of biological processes and
architectures differently, so that
the development of targeted
our systems have an immune-like
treatments. Here at Rensselaer,
response to malware, to isolate
Professor Juergen Hahn has develand limit the damage, and then
oped the very first physiological,
fluidly to reconfigure the system?
rather than behavioral, test for
Social and political solutions also
autism by applying big data anaare key. We may need consortia
lytics to numerous metabolites in
to set standards. We may need
a blood sample, and creating an
an international agreement on
algorithm to determine whether
cyberspace to address both secusomeone is on the autism scale.
rity issues, and data sovereignty
This breakthrough will allow
and privacy concerns-i.e.,
earlier interventions for children
where should data reside, and
and may point the way to potenwho controls it-a major issue,
which has been subject
At the same time, this
to new regulations in the
If history is a guide, the students today
is a world in which hospiEuropean Union.
playing the cyber version of Capture the Flag,
tals regularly are subject to
Also required is a cultomorrow will tackle the risks represented by
ransomware attacks that
ture change in the digiour digital age, and transform them into the
hold their data hostage.
tal economy. Until now,
greatest of opportunities.
They often pay the ransom
security challenges have
because they cannot funcallowed for a kind of
Air transportation, in which planned obsolescence, in which
tion without access to patient
data, and because of the sensi- almost every system is automat- tech companies have benefittivity of the information they are ed, represents another kind of ted economically, by persuading
vulnerable infrastructure. Several consumers to buy the newest
charged with safekeeping.
Whereas data used to sit behind a airlines already have been forced and safest version of their prodmoat, today it lives within an eco- to cancel thousands of flights ucts. But the Fourth Industrial
system that includes bad actors because a single point of failure Revolution, with its potential
ranging from businesses that brought down their information for digitally controlled physical
exploit data most of us would con- technology systems. Airports destruction, demands a new sense
sider private, to hackers whose now are moving to virtual control of responsibility.
Our reliance on data calls for
ven at play, rensselaer
people tend to take on
the greatest of challenges.
Today, one of the most popular
clubs on our Troy campus is called
RPISEC. The students in this
club are exploring-and teaching
each other-all aspects of cybersecurity, including web security,
cryptography, reverse engineering, malware analysis, memory
corruption, and digital forensics. RPISEC is among the very
best in the nation at student-led
computer security competitions
known as "Capture the Flag."
As the world moves more fully
into the "Fourth Industrial Revolution," in which the physical,
biological, and digital are merging, such expertise in cybersecurity is increasingly significant.
This Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterized by extreme
connectivity and an avalanche of
data, which together create both
important opportunities and substantial vulnerabilities.
In medicine, for example,
an ability to capture and analyze data at the molecular level
is driving a new understand-
4 rensselaer/fall 2017
sole purpose is
mischief, to cybercriminals profiting
from stolen data,
to states engaging
The more data
we store, the harder it is to protect, as
the surface area of
larger and larger.
The threat is endto-end. It begins
with the computer chips themselves, where there is fear that
"backdoors" can be added in manufacturing. It includes network
compromise, which is growing as
the Internet of Things offers new
avenues into networks through
connected household devices
with weak security controls.
And because data is linked
increasingly to our physical
reality, the threat includes physical destruction. We already have
seen the compromising of
critical infrastructure using digital industrial control systems
accessed remotely: In December
2015, Ukraine's power grid was
disrupted by cyber intrusions at
three regional electric power distribution companies.