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The Domino Effect

Cyberwarfare is invisible until it reaches you.

Photo of Khanh Tran
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Sketch 1 (1,500 characters)

INSPIRATION: I was inspired by an artwork where the keyboard represented different institutions. It then occurred to me that programmers need to compile their code by simply press "Enter". In the same vein, programmers/hackers can affect thousands to perhaps, millions of people without their awareness. As cyberattacks become more common (recently, Capital One), it is only a matter of time before it reaches to you. ART DIRECTION: I picked up the colors from OPEN IDEO brief. I was inspired by a dark palette, to show that most of these attacks are invisible and though, reported, rarely spark a sense of urgency from people (e.g Edward Snowden). I also enjoyed the stark Blue since it reminded me of Windows dreaded Blue Screen. The hacker's hand was originally black to represent black hackers but then I realized many large companies are white hackers who have equal impact on people and organizations. NEXT STEPS: I would reiterate the hands of the hacker. There are way more things happening behind the scene and cannot simply be reduced to one push of the button.

What have you learned through this sketching process? (1,000 characters)

Throughout my research, I learned about many cyberwar attacks resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars loss. Many of them are unheard and missed out in mainstream news. There were also few visuals that can portray the massive damage caused by these attacks (however, I found illustrations from Foreign Policy "In Cyberwar, There are No Rules" particularly meaningful). Throughout this challenge, I found very few credible news articles have an accurate portrayal of cybersecurity, much less alone cyberwarfare. Since cyberattacks do not result immediately in physical concrete damage, it gave me a lot of thoughts on how to portray these concepts.

Tell us more about you. (1,000 characters)

I am an aspiring UX / UI Designer with a hobby of drawing comics. I worked at Google and Indeed before making the transition and was taught some basic awareness of cybersecurity. While it made total sense at that time for businesses to protect their own privacy and information, I took little precaution in my personal life until I experienced identity theft. After the incident, I became cautious of my information and protected with whatever method possible. I currently have a love hate relationship with technology and I'm looking for ways to understand more about cybersecurity.

Why are you participating in this Challenge? (750 characters)

Unfortunately, I became aware of cybersecurity practices after experiencing first-hand identity theft. My mother had a compromised Yahoo account after the company's 2016 security breach and resulted in her and my information stolen. We lost money in our bank, important pictures and personal information. We had to change our emails, phone numbers and now constantly check our bank statements for any suspicious charges. Ever since this incident, I became more vigilant in learning about cybersecurity. Hence, when I found out about this challenge, I wanted to jump at the opportunity.


What is your experience with the field of cybersecurity?

  • I have never worked in cybersecurity before but am excited to learn more and get involved.

What best describes you?

  • Other

How did you hear about this OpenIDEO Challenge?

  • Other

Location: City


Location: State / District


Location: Country

  • United States of America

What opportunity areas are you covering with this final portfolio? (250 characters)

Internet of Things (3/ Smart Cities), Digital Privacy (4/ Digital Privacy in Social Media), Cyber Conflict (2/ Arms Race) and Wild Card (5/ Cybersecurity Specialists & 1/ Unknown of New Technologies)

Final Portfolio (1,500 characters)

Originally, I was interested in CyberConflict because it’s a subject that I know least about. However, I became overwhelmed by the amount of information and then decided to portray more pressing issues. My portfolio shows the different conversations about (1) Unknown of New Technologies, (2) Arms Race between the United States and China, (3) Smart Cities (4) Digital Privacy in Social Media and (5) Cybersecurity Specialists. I focused on a few TEd Talks and narratives to extract an idea worth illustrating. While these issues are diverse, I felt most compelled with (5) cybersecurity specialists since they are rarely portrayed in media. I used a lot of analogy from history and real-life games to help the general public grasp ideas quickly and easily. I am aware that using binary numbers is not encouraged but, for the sake of the message, I included them in a few visuals.

How would you summarize your final portfolio in 100 words or less? (650 characters)

The current issues of cybertechnology spanning on different areas from cyber arms race, the future of machine learning and artificial intelligence to digital privacy and surveillance.

Briefly describe your imagined use case for the work in your portfolio. (250 characters)

I picked the journalist and policymaker personas at the very beginning and intended to design for their news publications I wanted to draw visuals that can spark conversations as well as support related news articles.

What was the most useful feedback that you received? (1,000 characters)

My mentor helped me to understand the state of future smart cities. I often forgot cities are adopting smart technologies to track, monitor and learn from its citizens. My mentor’s non-profit publications helped me to show the complexities in implementing smarter devices, therefore, I tried to show a city "upgrading" itself, similar to the game “Sim City”. He also helped me to understand that cyberattacks are not linear relationships and often come from different angles. I tried to reiterate based on my first idea (Domino effect) and paired with other different games (chess, Jenga, The Sims) but I have yet to finalize the idea.

How have your concepts evolved since the Ideas Phase? (1,000 characters)

At first, I was simply keen on portraying cyberconflicts. I felt the damage of cyberwarfare was often ignored, or even taken for granted by the general public. However, my perception changed when I stumbled across Chris Domas’ TEdxTalks “The 1s and 0s behind cyber warfare” in my research. While it is true that a lot of cybertechnologies are vulnerable to exploitations, many cybersecurity specialists are working with big data to provide safety and protection. In the same way, many perpetrators have to dig through millions of data to find a vulnerable spot to attack. I felt compelled to demonstrate this relationship as a way to both show the public of imminent attacks but also to show the people who are working to protect them. In the same vein, I chose to portray other issues of digital privacy, new technologies, arms race from TEd talks and news publications.

How have you been able to incorporate technical accuracy into your concepts? (1000 characters)

For (1) Unknown of Tech, (2) Arms Race and (3) Smart Cities, I had my mentor give me feedback. He helped me to clarify what kind of technology is fought for in an arms race and what “statistics” to include in a smart city. He provided me with a lot of helpful resources that I could include details in each visual (e.g cloud technologies in (3) Smart cities). Through some of our conversations, he also helped me to discard a few other ideas such as debates around international cybersecurity law and the complexities of cyberattacks. Overall, I’m glad to have the opportunity to collaborate with cybersecurity specialists since it gave me more ideas and context to work on.

How do your concepts expand the conversation on cybersecurity? (1000 characters)

I hope my image on (3) Smart Cities can spark more conversation. I think most of us take smart devices for granted and imagined ‘smart’ machines as extreme as artificial intelligence or machine learning. I hope to make people notice that implementing smart devices into cities can bring both benefits and risks for policymakers as well as citizens residing in the area. I hope this image could be used more at symposiums and conferences. Since I equate it to a game, I hope to give more agency to policymakers who can choose to implement these new infrastructures.

If you were provided with additional time and resources, are there additional ways that you’d wish to reimagine the visual language of cybersecurity? (1,000 characters)

So many! The hardest part for me was to narrow down ideas. For the longest time, I wanted to construct an educational mini-game for people to guess which infrastructure was “smart” in a city. I was hoping to show the benefits and risks of these devices in the upcoming future cities. My second thought was portraying the complexity of a cyberattack. I was hoping to also create a game to raise awareness of the destruction of cyberwarfare. The user would act as a “hacker” and give the ability to create attacks on a different scale. He or she would start his/her attacks locally and soon move to an international platform with more complex systems and infrastructures. I hope to raise awareness to the public on tactics employed by perpetrators and its consequences. I’d love to work with a developer to make these ideas happen.

What resources did you find most helpful? (optional, 1,000 characters)

I used reports of East and West Institute, Ted talks and Wired news articles. These helped me to understand the intricacies of cybersecurity. I try to pick one idea articulated by these new resources and pick a similar analogy or storyline. I was most inspired by games or historical events since it was the easiest for me to grasp in context.

Commitment to Creative Commons License (CC BY 4.0)

  • Yes, I ensure that my portfolio is in compliance with CC BY 4.0.

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Photo of Dima Boulad

I'm so glad to see the progress of this idea and the sketches into your final portfolio Khanh Tran  .As the review team is going through all submissions, I would like to take this chance to thank you for your participation in this Challenge and your dedication to this important and complex topic. Watch this space as we announce the top picks!

Photo of Khanh Tran

Thanks @Dima Boulad!

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