Computer systems and computer networks are inspiring. Their progress is a fortunately unlimited incentive that keeps scientists, software developers and tech-savvy people reinventing previously done work, improving it and making it available and useful to society. But what happens when among these three categories of technology makers with advanced understanding of computers, computer networks and security and a great societal drive, some rise to reclaim the vulnerability of their creation? The answer is computer hacking at its greatest. Hackers fill in their time with exploiting weaknesses in computer networks and invading computer territories with mostly negative impact on or completely against society.
Technological progress is most of the time quickly adopted by society and it clearly touches almost every area of human behavior and interaction: health, economics, environment, transport, internet, you name it. As this happens, imagine one thing: human and computer intelligence face each other just like vulnerability and control. This is where things might get messy. But aren’t we already aware of that? We’ve all heard about real life computer hacking stories and we’ve all watched Matrix, MI4 Ghost Protocol, etc. which very often tend to become reality at some point. So we seem to be pretty aware of the risks. But, that’s false: we’re not.
Avi Rubin, Professor of Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University and Technical Director of the JHU Information Security Institute, focuses his research activity on Computer Security, and his latest research brought more light onto the vulnerabilities of software development. Bottom line: any kind of software based system can be cracked. His TEDxTalk is actually a “greatest hits” of (scary) academic performed security hacking activities that people have never heard about or even imagined.
For instance, medical technology advancements have served us great health benefits: people whose heart beats can be efficiently controlled, people regaining their eyesight or hearing by having medical devices implanted within their bodies, diabetics who can control their blood glucose level by only clicking some buttons and so on. 2005 even hit a record in medical devices progress: these can be controlled wireless and therefore have networking capabilities. Remember the hackers’ favorite activities to fill their time with? Breaking into computer networks, implicitly breaking into your pacemaker and controlling it, and not only that.
This is just one example, but the others he mentions in his talk will shock you even more. So beware: where there’s software, there’s vulnerability.