Cyber tech expert for national security


Josiah Dykstra

Josiah Dykstra

NSA

Could a Google Glass-like device help strengthen the country’s cybersecurity?

That’s a question Josiah Dykstra is trying to answer. As team technical director of the NSA’s Laboratory for Telecommunication Sciences, Josiah Dykstra is constantly brainstorming unique ideas to improve the country’s digital defenses.

“Cyber threats are always evolving. There are always new things to do. And there are always real and pervasive threats against the nation, so it’s important work,” he said.

Dykstra is leading a project to develop a prototype of an “augmented reality,” head-mounted display that would project important notifications into a NSA cyber risk analyst’s field of vision.

“Staring at a computer all day requires a lot of intensive focus. It makes me really tired, and I think it can stress people out,” he said. These glasses could make analysts happier and more productive, he thought.

His team is also working on a psychology-oriented research project to determine how different warning messages could make people less susceptible to phishing attacks. Are some users less likely to open a malicious email if they get a notification saying their friends didn’t open it? That project is still in testing.

Dykstra earned bachelor’s degrees in computer science and music from Hope College in Michigan. He then earned a master's in information assurance from Iowa State University under the National Science Foundation’s Scholarship for Service and received a doctorate in computer science from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

He also plans to release a book, Essential Cybersecurity Science, by the end of the year.

“Research can sound dry and boring to a lot of people,” he said. “But I really think the technology and the underlying computer science problems and engineering problems — that’s what really motivates me every day.”

— Whitney Blair Wyckoff