After nearly 30 years in the field of cybersecurity, Criminal Justice Professor Mark Beaudry, CPP felt something was missing in the literature.
That something was a text focused on the techniques and motivations of cybercriminals. Understanding these things, he says, would help companies better understand the tools they need to defend against attacks.
Dr. Beaudry filled the gap by writing Cybercrimes and Cybercriminals (Kendall Hunt, 2023). “It’s not a cybersecurity or a cyber defense book meant to teach about how to protect computers,” he said. “It’s meant to teach about how bad actors (hackers) operate.” To that end, the book examines several examples of real-life cyber attacks, such as German student Markus Hess, who, in 1989, hacked into the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and gathered information he sold to the KGB, and Michael Calce (aka MafiaBoy), who, while still a high school student, brought down the websites of Yahoo, CNN, and Amazon.
Dr. Beaudry has handled risk and product security—protecting people’s ideas before patent—at a software company. He has been on the faculty of Worcester State’s Criminal Justice Department since 2018 and is a frequent presenter on cyber security at conferences around the country. He has co-written or been the primary advisor for four other volumes on the topic.
This most recent book represents 15 months of work and includes the latest data. Cybercrime has only escalated in recent years, with numerous large companies, such as LinkedIn, Experian, and Marriott, experiencing data breaches affecting millions of individuals. One of the problems, Dr. Beaudry says, is that companies underestimate the innovation of criminals. “They go buy all this security technology, and they put it in, thinking that it’s going to protect their system,” he said. “But the criminals are very creative, very innovative, and they’re always going to find a way around that latest and greatest technology.”
Another, perhaps bigger, problem is the shortage of cybersecurity professionals. There are currently more than 750,000 job vacancies in the sector in the US, and the people in these jobs now are working so much, they are getting burned out and leaving, creating an even bigger gap.
It’s a gap that Dr. Beaudry calls “self-inflicted” by the industry. At the start of the century, cybersecurity was very niche, with cost-prohibitive training programs. Now, many companies in the US are trying to fill the gap by offering free courses that will prepare individuals for entry-level jobs. Still, a lot of people may not even consider the field because they assume cybersecurity professionals have to be a whiz at math and computer programming, which is not necessarily the case.
The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, where Dr. Beaudry is co-chair of the Career Pathways Committee, is working to figure out ways to bring more people into the field.
This will be essential, with the rise of nation-state hackers—the biggest threat to security today. They are targeting businesses to steal cell phone and computer technology and weapon designs. They have the resources—in people and money—to pose a serious threat to the country’s critical infrastructure—banking, transportation, communication, and electrical grid systems, among others. A disruption in any one of these areas could affect the quality of life people in the US enjoy. Airplanes could be grounded, savings accounts could be lost, gas prices could go up. And the majority of this infrastructure in the US—80 percent—is in the private sector, where security measures may not be as effectively implemented or controlled as we think.
The US has several excellent federal agencies devoted to cybersecurity, but we need to do a better job training local law enforcement to investigate these crimes, he said.
“The innovation of hackers is going to be much faster than we can keep up with,” Dr. Beaudry said. They will find better ways to hack phones, computers, and even cars, and we’re past the point of a return to non-computerized technology. Another big problem, he predicts, is the hacking of satellites, which operate everything from television and GPS signals to weapons systems.
“Luckily the generations coming up now are more technologically savvy,” he said. And there has been increasing interest in this area. Cybercrime is an up-and-coming field finally getting the attention it deserves, he said.
Part of that attention is coming from students. Worcester State students can take courses on cyber crime and criminology, cyber intelligence, terrorism, managing cyber risks, human factors in cybersecurity, cyber warfare, and introduction to cybersecurity for criminal justice.
As for Dr. Beaudry, besides continuing to teach cybercrime courses and present at conferences, he is contemplating writing another book—this one focused on nation-state hackers.
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