Each generation must face its own struggle, says Mikhail Gofman, a Ukrainian-born associate professor of computer science.
In his family, the struggles run deep.
His grandparents survived on grass and tree bark during the famine of 1932-33 under Russian dictator Joseph Stalin, who resorted to starvation to stifle Ukrainian nationalism and force communist and collectivist agriculture into the breadbasket that was Ukraine.
Gofman’s grandparents (Zenovi and Bronislava Flair) fought in World War II and others died in the Holocaust.
Now Gofman, who grew up in the city of Artemovsk, which reverted to his original name of Bakhmut in 2016, is facing a battle of his own.
As the director of CSUF’s Center for Cybersecurity and a certified professional in information systems security, Gofman, a Ukrainian refugee who immigrated with his parents and grandparents to the US in 1995 when he was 10 years old, closely follows his native country as he the conflict in Eastern Europe continues.
Although his parents, Igor and Yelena, are safe in New York, Gofman worries about his uncle and relatives who remain in the Ukraine, as well as friends who live in bomb shelters.
And he is monitoring the continuing cybersecurity threat to his country, Europe’s second-largest after Russia with a population of 40 million, which has shrunk significantly since the war began in late February.
“The types of Russian attacks we are concerned about are advanced persistent threats,” Gofman said. “We are talking about highly sophisticated state-sponsored attacks targeting critical infrastructure, military communications, the economy and other important targets that, if hit, could give Russia strategic and tactical advantages in the conflict.
“They are not trying to steal your credit card number or break into your bank account. They want to obtain military secrets, they want to mess with critical infrastructure, they want to spread massive disinformation to affect election results. “And they are extremely well funded,” Gofman added. “These cyberattacks are carried out by professionals.”
things can change
So far, Russia has not unleashed any notable sophisticated cyberattacks against the US during the ongoing Ukraine crisis, or against Ukraine’s infrastructure, Gofman said.
“However, this may change depending on the escalation,” he said.
Gofman said Russia may try to cripple banks, shut down the power grid and disrupt other vital services.
He noted that APTs are incredibly stealthy and that some have taken months or years to discover.
“As we speak, systems may already have been infected and data is being exfiltrated, we’re just not aware of it,” Gofman said.
“Worse, malware may be in a dormant state waiting to be activated when the time is right if the conflict escalates,” he said. “At the same time, it is also true that the US has the full capability to respond to Russian attacks with equally devastating cyberattacks.”
Gofman said he is sure that Ukraine and its allies have spent a lot of time and resources trying to conduct penetration tests on systems that control critical Ukrainian infrastructure to ensure resilience against the onslaught of Russian attacks.
Ukraine also recently started recruiting volunteers for its IT army, whose job is to carry out defensive and offensive maneuvers in the war with Russia, he said.
CSUF’s Cyber Security Center, of which Gofman is the founding director, was created in response to the growing number and sophistication of cyber attacks that affect millions of people, organizations and government institutions each year. The cyber threat landscape has evolved from hacker enthusiasts breaching systems for pleasure, to highly organized networks distributing malicious software for profit, to large groups of hacktivists working to undermine day-to-day operations of organizations and government-funded efforts to carry out cyberattacks of remarkable levels of sophistication and destructiveness. Energy.
Gofman, who earned his Ph.D. in computer security from the State University of New York at Binghamton and whose work has been published in top-tier security conferences and journals, said he feels it is his moral duty to serve the US and Ukraine. with your cybersecurity skills.
And the skills that he has and is teaching his students are unique.
“Cybersecurity requires more than academic and technical proficiency, but mental and emotional resilience,” he said. “Cybersecurity is a militaristic field in a sense. You’re not shooting people, but basically you’re fighting another human being, another intelligent agent.
“You must have scientific skepticism, but that is not enough.
“When you do cybersecurity, you are dealing with a deceitful agent. You must think like a magician. You have to be creative but also rigorously methodical. You need to be Beethoven with the heart of an accountant.”
Gofman said CSUF will apply for designation as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education, a national seal of approval awarded by the Department of Homeland Security.
“I’m glad I got the chance to be a part of this,” he said. “There is a lot of potential.”