One of the most common reasons for many researchers and academicians entering into the education field stems from wanting to solve the problems faced during their years of practice in a particular industry. For Associate Professor Dr. Noor Zaman Jhanjhi from the School of Computer Science & Engineering, being a great teacher, mentor, and researcher was always a dream of his ever since he was young.
With over 20 years of experience in academia, Dr. Noor Zaman shares how his love for teaching and his different research projects in technology, the Internet-of-Things (IoT), and cyber security can serve the different groups in our community.
Q: Could you share with us what led you into academia?
A: I worked in the industry as a consultant for some time but spent most of my career in academia. I truly believe that teaching and research has always been a dream and passion of mine as I found this as a way to serve the community.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve always had the best teachers and amazing mentors that would guide me at every stage of my education. I owe my achievements to them. That has also inspired me to become a great educator who can positively impact lives and create a better future for our young generation.
Q: That’s very noble of you! Good teaching and research can definitely help build a solid future for generations to come. Can you share with me the research project you’re currently working on.
A: Currently, I’m working on different research projects related to cyber security and computer security where the IoT is involved. It plays a vital role in enabling societies to move towards a ‘smart’ era — think smart homes, smart cities, smart industries, smart societies, the 4th Industrial Revolution, and etc. In fact, this era of smartness is only possible by using IoT.
More than that, together with my team, I wanted to research how smart technology and the IoT can address various issues faced by the different groups in the community. For instance, we conducted research on how the IoT can improve healthcare centres through the administration of drug dosage or smart medical boxes to remind patients about their medication. From healthcare to traffic control and even securing our properties, my aim is to continue with various research projects that can help the community.
Q: Why is cyber security something that you’re focusing on?
A: It’s a known fact that we’re all moving towards using smarter technology. In fact, I’d say we’ve moved past that! Soon, gadgets won’t be the only thing that’s smart because we’re looking for a smart society. Our industries will also have to become smarter and we’ll all be technology dependent.
The other side of the coin is that, as we continue racing towards a smarter society and become more dependent on technology, people with dangerous and malicious intent are working twice as fast to cause harm. So, it’s obvious that security related to the IoT becomes the main concern in making technology workable and successful for us.
Q: How will this help the community?
A: To simplify, aside from using technology to fill the pockets in our society, my research aims to also tackle the security issues posed through 3 layers. The first layer aims to educate and train the end-users of these technologies. The research must solve how we train the community to detect when a malicious attack lands on them and how to prevent them from falling for it. Whether it’s not opening a link or an email that seems suspicious or being more careful about the apps we use, we aim to first educate and train end-users in becoming more aware.
But because it’s easier for a hacker to get through a system than educate all the end-users, the second layer of the research is to be a shield and protect the community by keeping our data safe and secure. This usually involves the IT department or Cyber Security Specialist to help keep the tools and technology we use safe for the end-user. At the same time, the third layer which involves meeting up and constantly coming up with the right solutions is necessary since we’re moving at a rapid rate.
That’s also why research in cyber security is necessary to serve different areas of the community. The results, coming from research projects and scientific research publications like research papers, organising and presenting conferences, Intellectual Patent publication, and publishing scientific books, helped different groups of people through multiple aspects. Hence, different research must continuously carry on.
Q: Ensuring that communities stay educated while protecting them sounds never-ending. Can you share how the rest of us, who aren’t as tech savvy, can play our part in ensuring the safe use of technology?
A: Hackers can’t do anything till they’re part of the system and there’s always a protection layer set up by the IT department to prevent them. So how can they enter? Vague access points is one of them. Did you know that 70% of the mistakes are by the users? Most of the time we make the mistakes that allow for these vague access points to exist.
I experienced it once when I received an email from a random professor in Taylor’s! Because of my background in IT, I realise and recognise that it was a phishing attack so I ignored the message and sent it to ICT instead. After investigating, we found out that the particular user opened a document that shouldn’t have been open.
We need to frequently train and update the community at large to be a right user. The best approach is to always be careful and not respond to anything that may be suspicious or dangerous.
Q: Through all your research and publication, there must have been a lot of moments and memories that you hold dear. What do you take out from it and where do you plan on going from here?
A: There were definitely many memorable moments in my research career. From the time my first postgraduate student graduated to the first time my book and patent were published and even my first grant being accepted. With the moments of victory, there were many failures but they were all important.
Research can only flourish when you become part of that team and can only be done when you prove yourself worthy in the research. This is known as an initial struggle which is a hard time when you’re struggling alone to make your place. I’ll never forget those times where I spent years trying to come out of it.
At the end of the day, like I mentioned earlier, research is a continuous job like one's hobby and we cannot say that we’re done. It’s the name of continuous improvement and looking for further achievements which can serve the community in a better way. To that, I’m looking to strengthen my research further in all directions.
Q: Speaking of improvements, what do you think are some of the biggest challenges the industry will face in the next 5 years and how can we face it?
A: We need to bridge the gap between industry and academia, as our research may have more impact on our lives. In addition, our industry is facing challenges including overcoming the current challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. But, I do believe we can mitigate this by better utilising our technology.
Q: Can students be the bridge to the gap?
A: Postgraduate students are always considered an asset to research. Currently, I’m supervising a number of postgraduate students actively working on current trends in research including Cyber Security, IoT, Drone Technology, Cloud computing, etc. I place great pride and joy in the success of my students especially when they achieve their high goals and targets.
Q: Any advice to the students?
A: My personal advice to them is to continue with great zeal and to be confident. It may be hard but not impossible though it would require constant and continuous efforts, dedication, and time on their part. You may not get results now but the day will come when you get your success.
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