Living Room Dialogue I: Cyber Security and the Future of IR

On the evening of February 26, 2013, a group of about 10 IRC members attended the first Living Room Dialogue of the semester to discuss the important issues surrounding cyber security today. Several students had taken classes in cyber security or computer science, and others had a more casual interest in the subject which created a great atmosphere for discussion and opportunities for people to ask questions and explain their knowledge on a variety of topics.

The conversation covered recent cyber attacks that have taken place, the problem of cyber and economic espionage, and the differences between computer viruses and worms. Several students were interested to learn that viruses need human interaction in order to spread, whether through downloading of a file or opening an email containing a virus, but a computer worm, once released, is able to travel from computer to computer without human input. The source code for both viruses and worms can mutate into new versions, making them difficult to stop.

Jeff Caso, IRC Director of Academic Programming, explained the importance of websites and organizations encrypting their password banks. If you are able to receive your password in an email when you request it from an organization, their systems aren’t secure since they have access to your password. Instead, organizations should have a “reset password” option to protect your information.

Many of the recently publicized cyber attacks have been attributed to the hacker group Anonymous. During our discussion, one student asked if there is a way to prevent this group from carrying out more attacks. Others soon explained that it may be almost impossible to stop Anonymous since anyone can perform a cyber attack and claim to be part of Anonymous. Not only is attribution one of the biggest problems in cyber security in general, but as Anonymous operates as a decentralized network, there is no single organization to target.

The Living Room Dialogue lasted for about an hour and provided a great forum for an intellectual conversation among IRC members. It was a good chance for students to ask questions of each other in a knowledge exchange and direct the conversation to issues in which they had an interest.

– Christie Shely