odern refrigerators have every imaginable convenience. You want a built-in camera to check out the milk situation while you’re at the grocery store? Done. How about a door panel to mirror your TV while you’re in the kitchen? Check. And who couldn’t use a voice-activated shopping list?
Today’s technology delivers a cold place to store your food and a home entertainment system, all in one slick, stainless steel package. Of course, this convenience — whether you’re accessing it through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or both — requires a home network connection.
And that could be a problem. This connection increases the possibility for a “malicious actor,” more commonly known as a hacker, to compromise other devices on a home network and potentially access your family’s personal information.
“The bad guys are out there looking for information, and they know no bounds. Whether that information belongs to an individual or group of people, a company’s proprietary intellectual capital, or to sensitive or classified government data, they will do whatever they can to gain access to their targets,” says John Rian ’02, MBA ’04. Rian is a lead technologist/cybersecurity engineer at Booz Allen Hamilton, a Virginia-based management and information technology consulting firm.
The technical details are a bit more complex, however. “If a hacker can compromise your smart refrigerator, for example, he could then gain access to your home network, and in turn, other devices attached to your network — your PC, your tablet, your phone, etc.,” Rian says. “Once he does that, he has access to your most sensitive personal information — bank accounts, contacts, passwords, everything you do in the digital world.”
Security experts predict these cyber threats and breaches will only increase. In 2017, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 300,000 complaints with reported losses in excess of $1.4 billion.
Never before has the world been as vulnerable to cyber breaches as it is today. That’s the bad news. The good news is that cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing and best-paying fields, according to ISACA, a cybersecurity peer organization with 140,000 members in 180 countries.
Seizing the opportunity to educate those professionals and fill those jobs, Quinnipiac designed and launched a master of science in cybersecurity program this fall. The fully online curriculum is the School of Engineering’s first graduate degree. Program director Frederick Scholl, who has taught at Vanderbilt University and earned his bachelor’s degree and PhD from Cornell University, thinks cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility, from consumers to chief information security officers.