Cybercriminals of the future may be able to do a lot more than steal identities, mine for data and interfere with computer systems. Sophisticated hackers could shut down power grids, hospitals, planes and more, says Bertrand Cambou, a researcher and professor at Northern Arizona University’s School of Informatics, Computing and Cyber Systems.
“The criminals are going to have the possibility to kill, to damage countries. The level of opportunities for criminals has been changing from having fun, breaking a system, passwords and so on, to damage parts of economies and could be actually more effective than traditional weapons,” he says.
Under a contract with the U.S. Airforce, Cambou researches cybersecurity methods using nanotechnology and nanomaterials. The work involves a complicated process of fingerprinting individual machines like computers and cell phones so they will recognize each other.
“There’s two levels of tasks here. The first level is to create those fingerprints and the second is to take advantage of it to prevent hacking system. The objective we have, the end game, is to protect communications, to protect assets, to protect information in such a way that a third party will not be able to enter and play a destructive game without having the knowledge of those fingerprints,” he says.
Cambou believes his cybersecurity solutions will have broad applications in transportation systems, bank transactions and national security.