Industry Insights

Looking Forward to ECEDHA 2019 Conference and ECExpo!

2019-03-19  |  5 min read 

The Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association (ECEDHA) 2019 Conference and ECExpo starts on Friday, and given the “bomb cyclone” of cold, snow, and wind that we recently experienced in Colorado, a trip to Tucson sounds very appealing. Regardless of the weather, the ECEDHA event is always very valuable and exciting because of the many opportunities it provides to interact with and learn from some of the leading minds in the ECE field. One of the keys to ECEDHA’s success and growth over the past 35 years is its emphasis on facilitating the exchange of ideas among its members. Equally important, ECEDHA consistently reaches out and communicates with people outside of academia, including professionals from industry, government, utilities, and other professional organizations.
 
This year’s event balances the academic focus with that broad outreach, and it promises to be a productive and informative gathering. The keynote addresses include representatives from universities and industry, and the plenary panels and breakout sessions are well stocked with highly accomplished professionals from diverse backgrounds and roles. To cite just one example, the cybersecurity breakout session, organized by Dr. Michael Devetsikiotis of the University of New Mexico, includes:
  • Dr. David R. White, a chief information security officer from a federal government research lab
  • Mr. Todd V. Krueger, a decorated Navy veteran and senior cyber security engineer for a defense contractor
  • Dr. JV Rajendran, an ECE professor who recently won the ACM SIGDA Outstanding Ph.D. Dissertation Award
  • Mr. Jeff Snyder, the founder of a cyber strategy consulting firm
  • Dr. J. Sukarno Mertoguno, a program officer for cyber security software at the Office of Naval Research
 
Given the importance of cybersecurity and the growing challenges of securing an increasingly connected world, this breakout session with such distinguished experts is very timely. The session’s title is, "From the Internet of Things to the Security of Things, Hardware Security, Cyber Resilience, and Cyber Experimentation," and the breadth of that title hints at the size of the cybersecurity challenge. For example, consider the Internet of Things (IoT). There are already billions of devices on the IoT, and projections for IoT growth range from tens of billions to hundreds of billions of devices within the next five to ten years. The IoT already has dozens of wireless protocols, and it spans recreational, governmental, commercial, environmental, medical, agricultural, and life-critical applications. Even seemingly low-importance IoT applications can turn out to have major security consequences, as we learned when cybercriminals stole several gigabytes of data from a casino by hacking in through an unsecured fish tank monitoring system.
 
The phrase “Hardware Security” is in the title for a very important reason. People typically think of cybercrime as involving stolen passwords, malware, and back doors to computer data, but hardware itself can be both a tempting target for malicious actors and a source of physical security against cybercrime. For example, there are hardware devices whose physical presence or multi-level authentication capability is required for a user to log into a system, to enter a secured area, or to operate a system. To a criminal intent on disrupting an IoT application, there is an obvious temptation to spoof or destroy hardware security measures.
 
Finally, “Cyber Resilience” is also an apt topic for this breakout session. Even the best efforts to secure systems against cybercrime may still leave applications with penetration risks, and it is important to be able to identify, contain, and limit the effects of security breaches. It is also important to be able to quickly recover lost or damaged data and to have a process for documenting and learning from various incidents.
 
ECEDHA was wise to include cybersecurity in this year’s conference, and the panel members will surely provide useful insights. I look forward to seeing everybody in Tucson, and please check out the links below for exciting news!