William Robertson, assistant professor of computer and information science and electrical and computer engineering
Among researchers focused on cleaning up the world’s black market of Internet insecurity, Robertson is a leader—in large part because he has learned to think like a cybercriminal.
This highly sophisticated set of hackers, members of a global Internet mafia, sit quietly behind backlit screens, coding their way into our sensitive data. From credit card numbers to computing power, nothing is off limits. So Robertson spends his days studying their malicious software: how it is constructed, how it works, and how it behaves. With that knowledge, he can create more robust security tools and safer systems.
For instance, Robertson uses machine-learning techniques to develop security programs that recognize the normal behavior of users and other programs. Then, when a threat presents itself and demonstrates anomalous behavior, the security program can automatically intervene to stop it. Robertson’s goal is not to catch the criminals, but rather to fatally cripple their ability to operate.