These days, more and more devices run computer code, which means more and more of them can be hacked. But national researchers in Australia are developing code that can't be broken into — which could make just about anything more secure.
U.S. research group DARPA recently tested the code on the flight computers of an autonomous helicopter. It gave a team of hackers six weeks, and they still couldn't break in.
The code is known as a microkernel — the barest possible bones of an operating system. The less there is to try to hack into, the easier it is to protect.
The researchers were able to mathematically prove the microkernel is secure. It does exactly what it's designed to do with mathematical certainty, every time. This also means it can't do anything the designers didn't intend.
Learn how to keep your devices secure:
KEEP YOUR PASSWORDS STRONG AND VARIED
If your password is easy for you to remember, then it'll be easy for hackers, too. Try using symbols, numbers and capital letters throughout your passcode. Also, experts suggest you use different passwords for different accounts.
EMPLOY TWO-STEP AUTHENTICATION
Add another layer of security by having another code sent to your phone number before you can sign in.
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BEWARE OF PUBLIC WIFI
If you're traveling, verify with the coffee shop or hotel that the wi-fi name is valid -- many cybercriminals set up networks with similar names to popular spots. You can also set up a private VPN that encrypts all of your data that passes through the network.
COVER YOUR TRACKS
Wipe your hard drive clean before giving away, recycling or throwing out your old laptop or computer.
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DON'T LEAVE YOUR DEVICES UNATTENDED
That's just asking for trouble!
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BEWARE OF MYSTERIOUS URLS IN EMAILS
Don't ever click on URL from an unidentified or sketchy looking email.
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COVER YOUR WEBCAM
FBI director James Comey suggests placing a piece of tape over your webcam when you're not using it. If that doesn't convince you, note that Mark Zuckerberg is known to do the same.
KEEP YOUR SOFTWARE UP TO DATE
Hackers target vulnerabilities in software, which are often resolved in software updates, so stop hitting the "ignore" or "remind me later" button!
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BACK TO SLIDE
Researchers have used microkernels to protect the core functions of a computer system. Hackers might be able to take control of your windshield wipers or stereo, for example, but a microkernel would prevent them from steering your car.
In the helicopter example, the code protected just part of the vehicle's flight computer. DARPA's hacking team was able to crash many of the systems onboard, but they couldn't control where the helicopter flew.
The code is now open-source, meaning anyone can download it and use it to build secure computer systems. "This will matter for much more than defense," U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said. "It can give the Internet of Things a critical foundation in cybersecurity."
A team at the University of Sydney has one of the first real-world uses: It's building and launching mini-satellites secured with the microkernel.