Browsing: Information Technology

There’s no cybersecurity silver bullet. Be risk-based. Pick low hanging fruit. We’ve all heard lots of clichés about what it means to—here are some more—be cyber aware, keep a clean machine, even Stop.Think.Connect. The bottom line is that protecting online resources and information is difficult, it’s new and it’s rapidly changing. Compared with other science and engineering disciplines, getting things done digitally is in its infancy. Relative to how long we’ve been building things like finely crafted bridges (think Roman aqueducts), protecting networks, computers and mobile devices is a brand new phenomenon. We’re making great progress, but in many ways we’re just starting to understand the environment … all while it keeps changing before our eyes. As we start National…

The creation of a new material has long been either an accident or a matter of trial and error. Steel, for instance, was developed over hundreds of years by people who didn’t know why what they were doing worked (or didn’t work). Generations of blacksmiths observed that iron forged in charcoal was stronger than iron that wasn’t, and iron that was forged in a very high-temperature, charcoal-fired furnace and rapidly cooled was even stronger, and so on. While we’re still learning things about steel, we now have all kinds of recipes that we can use to make steels with different properties depending on the application, but those recipes took a lot of time, sweat and toil to develop. Wouldn’t it…

Although they are mass produced, every firearm is unique, and when fired, they leave unique markings called toolmarks on the bullet and cartridge casing. Law enforcement agencies have used these “fingerprints” to match firearms with bullets as part of their criminal investigations for more than a century. While forensic evidence of this kind wouldn’t likely be enough to get a conviction on its own, it has played a crucial role in linking suspects to crimes, and the ability of firearms examiners to make those matches has never been a source of controversy … until recently. In 2009, a report by the National Academy of Sciences questioned, among other things, the lack of objective methods for evaluating and identifying toolmarks. To…

When I go home after work, my wife and I are typically focused on the present moment, especially on our young son. As new parents, we benefit from many innovative products and services—from improved car seats and creative toys to safer cribs and video baby monitors. One of the first products that we bought for our son’s nursery was a Wi-Fi-based baby monitor. When we brought it home and plugged it in, it connected effortlessly with our Wi-Fi router and smart phones. It helps provide safety and security—and, perhaps most importantly, sleep—for the three of us. As consumers, we just assumed that these “Wi-Fi Certified” products would be “interoperable”—that the many different devices and components in the Wi-Fi universe would…

Doors that are obviously meant to be pushed not pulled, footprints painted on the floor telling you where to stand at the airport — these are examples of good design and usability. You don’t have to think too hard about what to do because someone else put a lot of thought into how to get across the right way to open the door or where to form a line. As a usability expert, I spend a lot of time making sure that an object, system or interface can be used effectively and efficiently without frustrating the user. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how the cloud (PDF) — that network of servers that lets you access all sorts of services without…