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Future cybersecurity: hybrid threats require balanced preparation

19.10.2023
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The intersection of human behaviour and technology in the realm of cybersecurity presents both challenges and opportunities. Dr. Richard F. Forno, a prominent figure in the field, delivered a thought-provoking speech at a recent Book Fair on the theme of cybersecurity. In his address, Dr Forno emphasised the need for a balanced approach to tackle the evolving landscape of cyber threats. He highlighted the importance of understanding human nature, the role of education, and the relevance of the humanities in addressing the complexities of cybersecurity.

The Human Element

Dr. Forno began his speech by acknowledging the profound influence of books and reading in his life. He drew parallels between literature and the world of cybersecurity, emphasising that just as books open our minds to new ideas, technology exposes us to both opportunities and risks. While technology evolves rapidly, the human condition remains constant. Dr Forno contended that human behaviour often determines the success or failure of cybersecurity measures.

The Proliferation of Cyber Threats

Cyber threats have multiplied over the decades, becoming more sophisticated and elusive courtesy of AI. Dr. Forno highlighted that even though we have been repeatedly told how to enhance cybersecurity, attacks continue to occur. He attributed this to the human factor, emphasising that individuals' actions, whether through complacency, negligence, or curiosity, contribute to the persistence of cyber threats. For instance, Microsoft failed to fix major PowerShell Gallery security flaws even after claiming it did.

Education and Training

To address the human component of cybersecurity, Dr. Forno stressed the importance of education and training. He distinguished between industry training, which prepares individuals for specific jobs, and university education, which provides a broader understanding of the human condition, ethics, and critical thinking. Both, he argued, are essential in the cybersecurity profession.

The Role of the Humanities

Dr. Forno made a compelling case for the humanities, emphasising that they offer context, breadth, and practicality. He explained that the humanities teach critical thinking, nuance, and media literacy—skills that are vital for understanding the human condition and the motivations behind cyber threats. Lessons from the humanities help us learn from history and avoid repeating past mistakes.

Interdisciplinary Approach

Recognising that cybersecurity is not confined to technical aspects, Dr. Forno advocated for an interdisciplinary approach. He pointed out that fields such as business management, psychology, and political science have a significant impact on cybersecurity operations. The best cybersecurity practitioners appreciate these diverse disciplines and their potential effects on cybersecurity issues. Remember that staying immune to cyberattacks starts with guiding your online activities with a VPN service.

The Hacker Mindset

Dr. Forno introduced the concept of the "hacker mindset", characterised by curiosity, adaptability, and a willingness to question the status quo. He argued that nurturing this mindset is essential in a world where innovation is driven by those who dare to think unconventionally. The ability to ask "why" or "how" and to challenge assumptions is what sets hackers and cybersecurity professionals apart.

Balancing Art and Science

In conclusion, Dr. Forno emphasised that cybersecurity is both an art and a science. Addressing the human factor requires a holistic approach that combines technical expertise with a deep understanding of human behaviour. He urged educators to foster the hacker mindset and encouraged students to think broadly about technology and its risks.

In a rapidly evolving digital landscape, Dr. Forno's insights remind us that to secure our digital future, we must first understand the complex interplay between technology and the human condition. Cybersecurity is not merely a matter of code and algorithms; it is a reflection of how we, as individuals and as a society, interact with the digital world.