Guns, battleships and warplanes are fast becoming outdated tools of warfare in the modern age. Now, a person with great IT skills and computer thousands of miles away, can render devastating problems to a nation by just punching characters on a keyboard. Let us take a moment and reflect on some of the devastating effect a cyber-attack. Depending on it’s severity, an organization may face a total shutdown, a nation’s economy may even be crippled or left defenseless by the act and sensitive and private information can fall in the wrong hands. Many people may have the misconception that cybersecurity has only got to do with protecting your computer from anti-virus and malicious emails. Unfortunately, cybersecurity goes beyond that.
Recently, the defence secretary warned that threats to national security by cyber attackers were at an all-time high. This notice serves as a clarion call to members of the engineering profession to take up the challenge of ensuring that our country is being protected on the digital space. On this note, it is important that cybersecurity isn’t just an option to an engineer’s competence. Rather, it is compulsory that an engineer meets up with a satisfactory level of skill on cyber-security.
Creating and maintaining technological products are at the core of engineering skill. However, during the development of a product, various parts are shipped from all across the world. Having a crude understanding of the security of these parts won’t be enough. It was estimated by the Anti-Counterfeiting Forum that counterfeiting could lead to the loss of about 15,000 jobs and 13 billion pounds worth of investment. Fortunately, the awareness about the threats concerning the security issues of counterfeit electronic components is on the increase. However, the same cannot be said for the awareness of the ways by which these threats can be resolved.
The common misperception that cybersecurity is only related to the IT industry is not correct. Cyber threats affect every industry. From the educational sector to the financial industry, cybersecurity should be more prioritised than it used to. According to Prof. Raj Roy, director of manufacturing at Cranfield University, he emphasised on the need to unite in creating solutions that will tackle cybersecurity issues. Since engineers are major players in tackling cybersecurity, it is important that they have a better understanding of production materials and create products that are protected from cyber threats. The functionality of these products has to be regularly updated to meet up with the latest cyber risk.
We have been focusing on the products and parts in use. We wouldn’t want to leave out the engineering systems that manage these products. To have an engineering system that is well guarded against cyber threats, it is essential that engineers have an understanding of the behaviours of systems and components under threat of being hacked. If we have engineers that have the skills necessary to avert cyber-attacks, we are certain of having a more productive society and well-secured infrastructures in our country.