4.6.1 Introduction to Computing and IT (TM112) – facilitating understanding

Some subjects, such as cyber security, are fast moving. To enable students to appreciate some of the current issues in cyber security, the TM112 module team have created what is called a ‘guest lecture’.

The guest lecture is presented in two parts. The first part is a pre-recorded lecture (typically given by a member of the TM112 module team) which students can view, and the second part is an interactive question and answer panel discussion which is open to all students. Before the panel discussion takes place, students are invited to submit any questions they may have.

These two parts enable students to interact with the members of the module team who have written the module and to gain an awareness of an important subject that students may wish to study later.

An important role of the tutor is to signpost students towards different events and resources such as the guest lecture. Tutors can also make use of OU teaching resources in their tutorials and can refer to different parts of OU modules in their correspondence teaching.

Activity 5

Watch this short video clip from the lecture.

Download this video clip.Video player: nc4487_alstem_2020_vid006_1080x1920.mp4
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Transcript

MIKE RICHARDS
Who Turned Out the Lights? With the lights going out, something we take for granted is pretty much one of the scariest things we can think about. But it's more of a bigger picture than that. It's not just lights that are being turned off all around the world. It's other things we rely on for our everyday life.
So I just pulled a few random headlines from around the world. A schoolboy found a remote control for his television could be repurposed, and he could use it to trigger the points on the city's tram network. 2008, a pipeline carrying oil from the Caspian Sea region to the Mediterranean Coast exploded without any warning. And the one thing that goes in common with all of these is that people were attacking computer-based systems not for money, but to cause damage.
23rd of December, 2015, we're looking at Ukraine. And people were going about their everyday lives in Ivano-Frankivsk. And all of a sudden, 30 electrical circuit breakers providing grid power to the area all switched off. The power went, and it wasn't an accident. It wasn't bad weather. It wasn't a power station going down, or anything like that. The switches had opened deliberately.
The power went for between one and six hours across the region. It took more than six months to bring power back on a reliable basis. A year later, one fifth of Kiev lost its power for one hour. The ironic part of this was the part of the power grid in Kiev that suffered was the most modern. It was a post-Soviet installation, modern technology, modern supervising computers.
The things that's shared with both of these attacks in Ukraine is they were completely deliberate, and they'd been in planning for more than six months. Over a period of time, security engineers, mostly from the United States, Australia, and the UK, have been able to work out what happened before both of these attacks. And the first thing is something we all deal with on a daily case.
We call it phishing. This is the mail that arrives in your mailbox or in your social media feed that you didn't request. The reason we have phishing is because it's easy to send emails. It costs nothing. There is no real security on an email, so you can send a million, a billion emails out to the world, and a small number of people will respond.
Spearphishing is where you choose an individual who you think is vulnerable. And that's what happened in Ukraine. A couple of employees were spearphished. We don't know the messages that were sent, but it certainly ended with them receiving a Microsoft Word document that they opened. And by doing that, they allowed the attackers onto their computers.
This nasty software we call malware, malicious software. The Ukraine attack actually contained two different pieces of malware. The most important thing both of these do is they open what's called a backdoor on the victim's computer. Now, a backdoor is exactly what it says. It's a connection that computer has to the internet that the user doesn't know anything about.
So the attacker can sneak onto that computer at any time, do what they want, and they aren't known to the official users. So when they were ready, the attackers could log on through their backdoor onto the supervisory computer, and then they could use a whole collection of software tools. And they could find out what devices are on this network.
And over time, they were able to map the whole of the Ukrainian power grid. When the attackers were ready, they had enough information about how they could attack, what devices they were going to attack. And the reason hacking attacks are used is because they're relatively simple and they're deniable.
And there's this sobering statistic that came from Verizon last year, which is an American telecoms company. They investigated 53,000 cybersecurity incidents in the United States and found that 93% of these attacks began with phishing or spearphishing, these unsolicited messages that people were responding to. Of that 53,000, about 4% actually went on to become a serious breach in which data was lost or the operators lost control of their systems.
MAN 1
It's important to understand once this malware is deployed, the people behind it don't have direct control of it anymore, and they can get out into the wild as stuxnet did and infected something like an estimated 200,000 computers around the world, a large proportion of them in Europe, the US, and Japan.
WOMAN
I believe that there needs to be a paradigm shift in which we really address cybersecurity as a problem, as a social technical problem, moving away from being heavy technology-centric and moving more towards being human-centric. Interesting the human in the loop is going to be the key.
MAN 2
The security services always say at every event I've ever been to, always say that they have to be lucky all the time, where the bad guys only have to be lucky once. That really is true.
End transcript
 
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Think about how you might use some of the topics featured in the lecture in a tutorial. What questions might you ask students about the video to gauge their understanding of the material?

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Answer

You might check their understanding by asking them to explain some of the scenarios to you. You might also ask whether they have heard of any recent or other cyber security stories. Asking questions that enable students to relate existing knowledge to new ideas and concepts is a very good way to facilitate student learning.

4.6 The teaching and technology challenges tutors help us solve

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