2018 Scholarship Recipient

A Threat to Society

You can imagine my surprise when early on a Monday morning the phone rang; it was my bank identifying some fraudulent charges on my debit card. The fact that I am only eighteen made me feel that fraud was not something I had to worry about, however, I was wrong. Personal privacy and national security has become a target with the development of the Internet and its electronic cousin, cyberspace. I believe this is one of the grand challenges of my generation, protecting individuals from identity theft as well as safeguarding crucial systems like banking, national security and perhaps our physical infrastructure.
Until late in the 20th century, cybersecurity was not even something that people had heard of. However, electronic computing and modern communications pose some of the most complex problems facing contemporary society. Just recently, Equifax, one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies, suffered an enormous security breach. The initial investigation estimated 145 million consumers whose personal information was exposed by this breach. Here was a company who marketed to the public fraud-prevention and credit monitoring services and they could not protect themselves from cyber criminals. How is the individual supposed to protect themselves if large companies are unable to? Our world today has become reliant on computers and the Internet. It is common knowledge that computers are running just about everything in our world such as banks, hospitals, airports, etc. It is a frightening prospect to realize that infiltration of these systems can lead to catastrophic events. Therefore, it is time for us to make serious changes to protect ourselves from harm.
With so much riding on the assumption that these systems are running as they should, it is crucial to our world that we educate all people about the threats facing technology today. We must make it common knowledge to all, not just on a large scale but even to the individual person who owns a cell phone. Good cybersecurity begins with educating people about how they need to deal with information properly. There should be a national public awareness campaign where safer habits and proper precautions are detailed and encouraged. Courses should be offered at local universities and information should be distributed through our local government to create social awareness. There should be commercials and television programs encouraging individuals to be aware of the threats that face them. It should be mandatory that social media sites detail safe usage of their site and inform patrons of how to use it properly. An organization should be established to help individuals who have been attacked to navigate their way through the process and try to establish their personal security again. I believe that the government needs to make cybersecurity a priority on their agenda. Since the private sector owns the majority of the nation’s critical infrastructure, it is crucial that the public sector and the private sector collaborate to safeguard these systems. Our institutions need to discuss and develop ways to anticipate, detect, and deter future attacks. The government should be recruiting teams of people who are specially trained like scientists, computer engineers and hackers. This group should be researching attacks and formulating responses in order to prevent future ones from happening. Money needs to be allocated to further develop cyber defense. I would like to see systems that safeguard against the misuse of information. For example, people using sites to misinform and to mislead people in areas such as finance, social justice, and politics. Perhaps a system of “internet laws” with a body of enforcers similar to a police force might be necessary. Lastly, stricter laws need to be in place for cyber criminals with harsher penalties for those who break the laws. I hope that with these suggestions, we could possibly see a future ensuring safer use of technology.
The future of technology is exactly the reason I am pursuing a degree in computer information systems and cybersecurity. I want to be a part of developing technological solutions to this vast problem. I look forward to immersing myself in new technology and new strategies for protecting people. It is my hope to be on a future team of people, working together, to combat and reduce the impact of this impending threat.

Phillip Mathangani Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
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