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As the Worm Turns: Why Cyber Security Matters

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SOURCE Florida Institute of Technology

MELBOURNE, Fla., July 21, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Essential and vulnerable: That, in essence, is the state of our cyber affairs these days.

Florida Institute of Technology logo.

As technology continues to touch and influence our personal lives, our working lives and most everything in between, we turned to Richard Ford, one of the nation's preeminent experts on cybersecurity and head of Florida Institute of Technology's Department of Computer Science and Cybersecurity at Florida Institute of Technology.

With each day seemingly bringing new headlines about this security breach or that malicious worm, we asked Ford, Ph.D., the Harris Professor for Computer Science in Assured Information, about security, business and what the future may hold.

QUESTION: We've heard about Heartbleed and Stuxnet, those malicious Internet bugs. Do problems like this remain the biggest threats to our cybersecurity or are there bigger problems we don't even know about yet?

RICHARD FORD: I think that these kinds of issues are really symptoms of a bigger problem. Our entire computing infrastructure – and that includes embedded devices and control systems – is highly vulnerable to attackers. We have built a very complex ecosystem around us, and it is both critical to the smooth functioning of our lives and very fragile. I worry not about a cyber-criminal, but an attacker who simply wants to destroy.

Q: How do threats like you've just described impact the business world, whether a 50-employee firm or a Fortune 500 company?

FORD: Cyber threats impact all aspects of business operations, from expenses related to protection all the way up to threats to business continuity. The direct cost of cybercrime really impacts everyone. For example, the cost of fraud is factored in to the purchase price of every item you buy online, through the fees assessed to transactions by credit card companies. Everyone pays for cybercrime.

Q: What are some of the leading issues you are working on at Florida Tech's Harris Institute for Assured Information in relation to cybersecurity?

FORD: The Harris Institute, led by my colleague Marco Carvalho, is expanding our research program. Florida Tech is a designated National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense Research, and we are engaged with a number of different clients, both corporate and government. Active research topics include security visualization, moving target defenses and malware defense, to name just a few. Our goal is to try to work on technologies that change the rules of the game and take the advantage away from the bad guys.

Q: What are some essential, yet affordable, ways a business owner can safeguard his business?

FORD: Backups, patching and planning. Every business needs to keep off-site backups, and it's amazing how often that doesn't happen. Patching software up to date helps keep attackers at bay (and provides a good 'bang for the buck'), and planning means that when something does go wrong, you have thought through the implications and the right response. The right time to figure out how to respond is not during a crisis!

Q: Look into your crystal ball (or ultra HD, widescreen monitor) and tell us: What is the future of e-commerce going to look like with all of these current and future threats?

FORD: E-commerce will continue onward as it always has, with perhaps enhanced fraud protections built in; despite the threat posed by new threats, I don't see it ever pulling back much. At the end of the day, as attackers get better, so do defenders. There is a balance, and a financially motivated attacker has an incentive to keep it that way!

For more information, visit www.fit.edu.

PHOTOS: Images of Richard Ford available upon request.

About Florida Institute of Technology
Founded at the dawn of the Space Race in 1958, Florida Tech is the only independent, technological university in the Southeast. PayScale.com ranks graduates' mid-career median salaries in first place among Florida's universities, and lists Florida Tech among the top 20 universities in the South-both public and private. Featured among the top 200 universities in the world according to Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the university has been named a Barron's Guide "Best Buy" in College Education, designated a Tier One Best National University in U.S. News & World Report, and is one of just nine schools in Florida lauded by the Fiske Guide to Colleges. The university offers undergraduate, master's and doctoral programs. Fields of study include science, engineering, aeronautics, business, humanities, mathematics, psychology, communication and education. Additional information is available online at www.fit.edu.

Contact: Adam Lowenstein
FIT News Bureau
(321) 674-8964
adam@fit.edu

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