Bursic 2: 00 L10 securing cyberspace, securing our nation

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Bursic 2:00


Ryan Byrne (rmb111@pitt.edu)

The Need For Secure Cyberspace

In recent years, The National Academy of Engineering has communicated its concern about several problems in today’s world. The academy has stated 14 “Grand Challenges for Engineering,” each concentrating on a different aspect of life that needs to be improved in order to better the world. Although each and every one of these challenges are critical to improving the world, I feel that the challenge to “Secure cyberspace” is essential to sustaining a safe country. Almost every important aspect of our lives involves cyber-security. Finances, defense, and transportation are three of many divisions within cyber-security that require intense protection [1]. Without quality and secure cyberspace, the world could face drastic problems, including economic panic, endless crime, and chaos. Without putting the public in harm’s way, engineers all over the world must find ways to improve cyber-security. It’s important that engineers represent their findings to the public with accuracy and honesty, providing the world with concrete evidence that their ideas will improve cyber-security. Not only must engineers be accurate, but they must also show that their ideas can be reasonably applied to the real world [6]. In my opinion, providing a strong cyber-security in our financial structure deserves extraordinary attention because in order to maintain a secure and trustworthy nation, our world’s financial structure must be very strong.

Trading Money For Fear

Although all divisions of our financial structure are important, I am going to focus on the challenge to secure automated teller machines (ATMs) in hope of reducing identity theft. While technology has become more advanced, our nation has yet to form secure banking to prevent our country’s huge problem of identity theft. “In just the past six months, major security breaches have been reported across the country,” remarked several writers for Time Inc. in 2005 [2]. In that same six-month period, the Bank of America reported having 1.2 million breaches [2].

Criminals all over the nation are using other’s bank accounts to provide themselves with money. Roger Allan, author of Electronic Design, quotes that “the dangers of identity theft have increased in the 21st century on all levels, from personal finances to national security” [3]. In fact, Time Inc. emphasizes that about 4.25% of adults are victims of identity theft each year. Not only are these criminals taking money, but they are also instilling fear and anxiety within our nation [2]. It’s obvious that a new technology is needed to prevent this, a technology that can effectively identify the individual that has permission to access the specific bank account. These new technologies must be more effective than previous ones, and have a reasonable price to allow us to implement them in the real world. Despite the fact that previous technologies have shown respectable success, biometric palm scanners are the innovations that will give our citizens the privacy and security that they deserve.

Biometric Strategies to Reduce

Identity Theft

One technology invented to assure one’s identity was the fingerprint scanner. Despite the fact that every individual has a different fingerprint, a Japanese cryptologist named Tsutomo Matsumoto molded gelatin to a fake finger and tricked several fingerprint scanners 80 percent of the time. [4]. As far as eye recognition devices go, Russell Kay, an author for Computerworld, says that identifying an individual in this matter is an expensive and slow process that can take up to 15 seconds [5]. Fujitsu’s solution is to divert the public’s attention to his new creation: the palm scanner. Although Fujitsu’s claims seem to provide significant evidence against previous biometric technologies, we must take ethics into account. The IEEE/ACM Software Engineering Code of Ethics, which I will talk about later, remarks that it is important for software engineers to provide evidence in which the methods are fair and do not attempt to deceive the public. It seems that these claims of mediocre biometric performance are true, but the IEEE/ACM Software Engineering Code of Ethics suggests that engineers must adequately test these biometric devices in order to prove their validity [7].

Little Box, Big Solution

Bonnie Lee La Madeleine, author for J@pan.Inc, describes the simplicity of Fujitsu’s palm scanner: “Fujitsu’s palm scanner is a little black box. No kidding. It can be installed in machines like ATMs, computers, cars, and main entrances or carried around in the same way as flash drives on key chains” [4]. Already in use in Japan, Fujitsu’s palm scanner can identify an individual with almost complete certainty [4]. What’s just as important is that these palm scanners are low-cost.

In essence, a palm scanner is a miniature digital camera that snaps pictures of our deoxygenated blood patterns. After an image of the veins has been taken, the scanner compares the pattern to an image previously stored on a smart card. If it matches, than access is granted, and according to Fujitsu, only one in 12,500 times will an intruder be granted false permission. Although there is still a very slight possibility of an account being intruded, these chances prove to be extremely favorable when compared to those of fingerprints [4]. Compared to our current four-digit PIN numbers, these palm scanners will provide insurmountable security within our banks. As far as ATM machines are concerned, the biometric technology that performs the best is considered to be the device that best prevents thieves and can be constructed at a reasonable price. Therefore, I will use two engineering ethics codes to analyze the issues of effectiveness and reasonability that coexist with these biometric palm scanners.

Engineering Ethics

Within engineering there are several codes of ethics, but for this paper I will refer to two specific ones. The NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers and the IEEE/ACM Software Engineering Code of Ethics are two codes that go very in depth on how engineers are expected to work. The NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers is applicable to all types of engineering, explaining the standards of integrity that are expected from all engineers. Together, the six fundamental canons of the NSPE code states that engineers must be concerned with public welfare more that anything. It also states that engineers must be honest and faithful to their clients, employees, and to the public [6].

The IEEE/ACM Software Engineering Code of Ethics is similar to that of the NSPE, but is specified to only software engineers. This code states that software engineers must act in ways that support the interest of their clients, employees, and of the public. They must also hold all responsibility for their actions, while being fair to both the public and to their colleagues when analyzing and developing software [7].

While creating and implementing palm scanners, engineers must be able to act in the manner that is represented by these two codes of ethics. When it comes down to making critical decisions, failing to follow these codes will only make our current problems worse. The IEEE/ACM Software Engineering Code of Ethics states that all software engineers should ensure that they test their ideas adequately before they report premature results [7]. For example, an engineer can’t claim a palm scanner to be the best biometric technology available after testing it only 10 times. A premature claim such as that would produce unreliable and misleading results. Implementing a biometric technology on our ATMs that has been tested only 10 times would leave our bank accounts entirely vulnerable, especially if the scanner isn’t nearly as effective as claimed. Therefore, engineers must spend a significant amount of time testing fingerprint and eye scanners in order to prove that palm scanners are more effective and efficient [7].

Likewise, the NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers specifically states that engineers shouldn’t alter the facts just to promote their ideas [6]. For example, if engineers were to report an untruthful, extraordinary small false verification probability for palm scanners, citizens would feel an overwhelming sense of security, when in fact they aren’t any more secure than before. Not only would this be breaking the NSPE’s code, but it could also lead to an increase in identity theft, for citizens won’t feel the need to check their accounts at all. As a result, Fujitsu, his colleagues, and all engineers must continually test palm scanners to make sure that they present a false verification rate that is accurate and honest.

The IEEE/ACM Software Engineering Code of Ethics also states that it is an engineer’s responsibility to continually attempt to improve the cost and quality of his or her software. A device that is highly effective and reasonably priced has an extremely good chance to be created and implemented in our society. Although the cost of these scanners is already low, it is an engineer’s duty to continue trying to improve the affordability of these devices [7].

Altogether, the several canons within these two engineering codes cannot only teach current engineers how to conduct business in an acceptable manner, but can also teach our future engineers about how important an engineer’s actions are to become successful.

Does This Research Provide

Valuable Education?

In college textbooks, students read about several problems that engineers face. What they don’t read about is how these engineers go about this process. Researching a particular issue of engineering and relating it to various codes of ethics provides college students with the essential tools they need to be successful problem solvers in the future. Students in college programs will be the future leaders of our world, and learning about these codes can only help these students prepare for their future occupations [8].

Engineering students all over the world must know that the obligation of an engineer is to solve problems in order to better our world. Therefore, we must make decisions that will undoubtedly improve current situations. It is important that students learn that being unfaithful and deceiving will only give our world more problems than it had before. Personally, researching about ethics showed me that a job in engineering requires a lot more than just taking a problem and solving it. I now know that it is very important for engineers to act in a timely, professional manner regardless of the circumstance. Although it may be hard at times, engineers must always keep in mind that the welfare of the public is important above all other personal obligations. Educating students on how to be a good engineer must be considered in all engineering college courses solely on the fact that these students are going to become the leaders of our future.

An Important Problem That Requires

Ethical Decision-Making

Cyber-security throughout the world needs improvement in many dimensions, but today’s lack of security within banking is simply unacceptable, and its weakness deserves extraordinary attention. The problem of identity theft will never disappear if our poor ATM system remains the way it is today. I feel that the installation of biometric palm scanners within these ATMs will only provide solutions to reducing identity theft. Creating a trustworthy and reliable banking system is the most important characteristic of a good economy, and these devices will help us reach that goal.

The creation and implementation of these scanners will provide our country with strong financial security, but only if the guidelines of engineering ethics codes are followed. If engineers disregard engineering ethics, our world cannot possibly make the advancements it wants to within our banking system. On the other hand, if engineers are careful with how they obtain and present their results, our world can become a significantly better place to live in.


[1] (2010). “Secure Cyberspace.” National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenged For Engineering. [Online]. Available: http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/cms/8996/9042.aspx

[2] M. Sivy, P. Regnier, C. Bigda. (2005, July 1). “What No One is Telling You about Identity Theft.” Time Inc. [Online]. Available: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/mo neymag_archive/2005/07/01/8263140/index.htm. pp. 94-99

[3] R. Allan. (2008, June 19). “Biometrics Looks to Solve Identity Crisis.” Electronic Design. [Online] Available:

http://electronicdesign.com/article/components/biometrics-looks-to-solve-identity-crisis19098.aspx. pp. 31-35

[4] B. Madeleine. (2006). “Great Firewall of Cyberspace.” J@pan Inc. [Online]. Available: http://www.japaninc.com/article.php?articleID=1493. pp. 44-47

[5] R. Kay. (2005, April 4). “Biometric Authentication.” Computerworld. [Online]. Available:


p. 26

[6] (2010). “NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers.” National Society of Professional Engineers. [Online]. Available: http://www.nspe.org/Ethics/CodeofEthics/index.html.

[7] (2010). “Computer Society and ACM Approve Software Engineering Code of Ethics.” The IEEE Computer Society. [Online]. Available: http://www.computer.org/cms/Computer.org/Publications/code-of-ethics.pdf.

[8] (2006, June 26). “The Importance of Experience with Industry in Software Engineering Education.” Software Engineering Education and Training Workshops. [Online]. Available: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?arnumber=1644090.


I would like to thank the librarians of Bevier Library, and also Professor Bursic for the insight and advice on my paper’s topic.

University of Pittsburgh

Swanson School of Engineering October 5, 2010

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