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Professor Steven Bellovin Discusses Computer Security

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Steven Bellovin

Columbia University professor Steven Bellovin

Credit: Courtesy of Eileen Barroso/Columbia University

Columbia University professor Steven Bellovin says in an interview that he is working on the idea of private search, which allows users to work together, but not know what each person is specifically searching for. He says this type of private search could be useful in sharing information between government agencies.

Columbia researchers have developed mechanisms that enable advertising agencies to target ads but have no idea of who the individual users are. Bellovin notes that the motives of computer attackers today involve money or the furtherance of national government interests, compared to years ago when hackers were motivated mostly by curiosity.

In addition, he notes that many military devices are controlled by software, which makes them vulnerable to attackers. Bellovin also warns that cyberwarfare may already be underway, as a Syrian nuclear reactor was bombed by Israel, despite sophisticated Syrian air defenses, while the Stuxnet virus took down an Iranian uranium enriching plant.

He says the U.S. government also is vulnerable because agencies such as the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency are running programs such as Windows, Mac OS, and Linux just like normal users, so it could be very easy for motivated attackers to breach government systems.

From Columbia University
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