While engineers have the skills to build and maintain complex systems, until now it wasn’t necessary to study cyber security as a framework of the job. That’s changing – and now, engineers need to understand cyber security more than ever, with electrical engineers at the forefront of this change.
For most electrical engineers, the idea of learning about cyber security is a foreign one – better left to those who spend their time chasing attacks on computers themselves.
However, cyber security is changing and so are the job requirements and hiring criteria for engineers, with this trend only set to continue. Warfare and espionage conducted over the internet is now targeting key infrastructure. More devices are connected to the internet than ever before. Hackers hoping to target larger infrastructure, such as power grids, have the means to do so.
Cyber security is no longer reserved for those in front of keyboards. Electrical engineers need to understand how to build better, more secure infrastructure to keep hackers out.
Infrastructure Is Under Attack
For years, the idea of a hacker attacking major infrastructure like transportation or energy was the stuff of science fiction, but that’s no longer the case.
This year, a number of intelligence agencies have grown concerned about hackers targeting voting machines. In 2015, Virginia’s board of elections decommissioned thousands of voting machines after uncovering security problems – issues that could have resulted in hostile agents taking them over.
This isn’t just theoretical – attacks on infrastructure have happened before. Cyber attackers struck Ukraine’s power grid in 2015, leaving hundreds of thousands of citizens in the dark.
In 2016, a cyber attack took down many of the world’s major websites, including Twitter, Spotify and PayPal. A cyber security team at the Department of Homeland Security warned that household devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) could be compromised to help carry out these attacks.
Kapersky Lab has found that telecommunications providers are: “attractive targets for cyber criminals and state-sponsored hackers as they collectively oversee global networks, voice and data transmission and store colossal amounts of sensitive data.”
Attacks are no longer about shutting down websites. They revolve around attacking key pieces of infrastructure, and with more people using internet-connected devices for important home functions, hackers could exploit their weaknesses and take over these appliances.
Why Do Engineers Need Cyber Security Training?
Electrical engineers have a key responsibility in this new age of hacking. In a time when hackers are attacking infrastructure and devices themselves, engineers must understand the motivations behind these attacks and their methods in order to build more reliable and robust devices.
Patrick Miller, a critical infrastructure cybersecurity advisor and regulatory advisor, states that: “Industrial environments are pretty easy to break into once you get past standard external security. The industrial systems were not designed with security in mind, so they don’t have a lot of strong security measures you can use, especially if they weren’t installed in the last five years or so.”
Akamai’s 2016 State of the Internet report found distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks have increased by more than 100 percent. Engineers must understand this in order to influence the creation of newer, more sophisticated servers and infrastructure that can withstand such attacks.
Understanding these trends can influence key decisions in device creation, such as distributing infrastructure across many different areas in order to better withstand the brute force of an attack.
Engineers who understand the motivation and method of attackers are able to create better infrastructure to help prevent cyber crime.
There is an intimate connection between engineering and cyber security. When Apple first announced its Apple Pay system, it noted the inclusion of something it called the Secure Element – a chip specifically designed to house secure details such as credit card numbers.
This is a key example of how engineers understanding cyber security led to the creation of a critical piece of infrastructure.
Making Engineers Cyber-savvy
For those electrical engineers hoping to find a career in their field, understanding cyber security isn’t just a benefit – it’s crucial. Knowing how to build infrastructure and devices is one thing, but being able to understand how to build that infrastructure so it can better withstand attacks is absolutely critical.
This is exactly what the online Master of Science in Cybersecurity at the University of Delaware is designed to cover. The cyber security degree teaches students to effectively defend infrastructure by designing, executing and evaluating attack-resistant systems and software.
Unlike many other cyber security programs, this online program emphasizes the proactive design of software, networks and systems to ensure security at every step. This is a entirely new concept within the higher education space for engineers, and it places the University of Delaware at the forefront of cyber security education and industry shifts.
The cyber security course incorporates foundational theory and hands-on experience using virtual machine technology to provide you with valuable insights into today’s cyber security challenges, so you can anticipate evolving risks to security.
With a shortage of cyber security professionals, businesses are struggling to find talent. Electrical engineers hoping to make a mark in their industry would do well to examine what the course can offer – training that will add real-world value to your future employer, and to your career.
As the role of future electrical engineers shifts, cyber security education will become an increasingly important part of their career progression. Find out more about the intricacies of a cyber security education, and the benefits it could bring.