Cybersecurity Researchers Help Protect the Internet

The internet is the backbone of our lives, supporting everything from conducting business to communicating with loved ones to managing home appliances. Cars, medical devices, farm equipment, and security systems all depend on it. Even currency, once known as “cold, hard cash,” is now traded in purely virtual form by more than 100 million people globally. 

It’s easy to assume this connectivity is safe and reliable, but the online world is subject to numerous threats. The growing field of cybersecurity aims to protect the system—and us—from cybercriminals: modern miscreants ranging from state entities to small groups of saboteurs to lone wolves who can wreak havoc from their living rooms. 

Cybersecurity is a growing emphasis in the University of Oregon Department of Computer and Information Science. Faculty in the department’s Center for Cyber Security and Privacy collaborate with colleagues from philosophy, law, business, and other areas to research—and help thwart—threats to internet traffic, cryptocurrency, social media networks, infrastructure security, and more. 


Lei JiaoLei Jiao, an assistant professor in the computer science department, focuses on how to deny the deniers—those who try to incapacitate others’ computers by launching Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that can paralyze a computer, a group of computers, or an entire multinational company. Jiao was recently awarded a fellowship as part of a university research initiative by Ripple Labs, a US-based developer of cryptocurrency platforms. 

In a DDoS attack, hackers launch a large amount of data traffic toward a victim, overwhelming the recipient’s computer bandwidth. The receipt or transmission of legitimate information becomes impossible for the victim. 

Internet service providers such as AT&T and Comcast try to thwart these incursions by operating “scrubbing centers”—data centers with many computers that are programmed to detect and defeat the intruders. Malicious traffic is filtered out in the scrubbing centers and the rest is routed to customers. These centers are located across the nation, and it’s up to each service provider to determine which one to use,…