What You Need To Know About Cybersecurity From the Director of the Rensselaer Future of Computing Institute

What You Need To Know About Cybersecurity From the Director of the Rensselaer Future of Computing Institute

March 16, 20234 min read

Cyber threats have become one of the leading issues for corporations, governments, and public institutions across America. With ransomware attacks, hackers, and other nefarious threats, the issue is becoming a daily occurrence and leading news story.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s James Hendler, director of the Future of Computing Institute, Tetherless World Professor of Computer, Web, and Cognitive Sciences, and director of the RPI-IBM Artificial Intelligence Research Collaboration, weighs in on what we should all know about cybersecurity.


Think about cybersecurity the way you think about home security – the more valuables you have, the more security you need. A normal user needs the equivalent of a lock on the door, which most of our computers provide out of the box. However, a user with a fair amount of personal information, who keeps financial records or runs a small business, probably wants a firewall or other additional protection.

We used to tell people to protect their computers with firewalls, malware detectors, and the like, but now it is much more important to protect your web access, be wary of external sites, and keep your passwords secure and not easily guessed. Use of a password manager program can be really helpful for people who use a lot of different accounts.


The biggest threat facing individuals is identity theft caused by someone getting into an account that you don’t control. Most malware or password stealing comes via a phishing attack (a fake email that convinces you to click a bad link), so if you see an offer that looks too good to be true, don’t believe it.

Never give out a password or personal information without confirming that it is legitimate. We also recommend not using major accounts (like Google, Facebook, etc.) to log in to new apps where you aren’t completely sure of the reliability – you’re safer if you use a separate password. It’s also worth noting that these kinds of attacks are now happening on cell phones – if you get a text saying your

Amazon, Netflix, or other services have been shut off, be very careful. These companies almost never send out such messages, and if they do, they come via email, not text.

For businesses, ransomware is becoming an increasing challenge. Frequent backups and dual authentication are absolute musts for small businesses. Large businesses, and especially those with cyber-physical connections such as a manufacturing device, must have someone on the team who understands internet technology. Outside audits done annually, at least, are also highly recommended.

The biggest danger in cybersecurity is that people, especially in businesses, think that the software industry will fix things and that they don’t have to worry. That’s like expecting auto manufacturers to stop car theft, or the government to prevent all crime – these organizations certainly need to help, but

they cannot be perfect. So while there definitely needs to be a role for manufacturers and government, people need to understand that the threats are now coming from social interactions such as phishing, or serious criminal enterprises such as ransomware attackers, and not just maladjusted teenagers. They must be ready to pay for some security if they have things on their network that need protection.

The Cloud

Cloud-based services are a major boon to cybersecurity for individuals and small businesses if, and only if, people protect their access. If a breach is reported to you by a company, don’t ignore it, change your password, and, whenever possible, use dual authentication. The cloud companies can afford to spend

more on security than you can and thus your information stored in these services tends to be quite secure. However, people need to be careful in using the cloud. Just as you may trust a bank with your money, you want to be sure not to be robbed on your way there.

Future Computing Systems and Cybersecurity

New technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), are arising all the time in today’s fast-moving cyber world. As these technologies arise, they can create new opportunities for cybersecurity, but can also create new challenges. Cybercrime will never disappear, and each new capability comes with a price.

Increased education and awareness of emerging computing technologies (blockchain, quantum, etc.) are important not just for the expert, but also for the general public. It is important to stay informed and pay attention to what is being reported. Just as buying a new appliance can be a great advantage at

home (I love my new air-fryer), you also have to be sure to be using it appropriately (used wrong, it can cause fires).

Looking to learn more or connect with an expert for your questions and coverage?

James Hendler is the director of the Rensselaer Future of Computing Institute, Tetherless World Professor of Computer, Web, and Cognitive Sciences, and director of the RPI-IBM Artificial Intelligence Research Collaboration.

Hendler has authored over 400 books, technical papers, and articles in the areas of Semantic Web, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and high-performance processing.

Hendler is available to speak with media - simply click on his icon now to arrange an interview today.

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  • James Hendler
    James Hendler Director, Future of Computing Institute

    Leading researcher in the Semantic Web and artificial intelligence

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