This is the second in a two part series in which we explore the vulnerability that our increasingly technological and interconnected world presents us with. The first post outlined a presentation by Avi Rubin who outlines some the broad “hackability” of our lives and some of the technological developments which will add a new level of risk to our everyday lives. In this post we’ll take a step back and explore some of the ways that cyber-threats have been popping up in headlines and the resulting national conversation around the increasing threat of hacks. These two posts illustrate the sort of world we are living in and the importance not only of awareness, but of action.
It is impossible to escape the conversation around cyber-threats in the news. Significant incidents involving hacking and the mining of critical information have occurred in the realms of politics and finance, and even popular entertainment has taken to interacting with these threats in their dramas.
In April of this year there was hack and subsequent exposure of a large collection personal data in the Panama Papers scandal (which we have written about here). In June the private emails of the Democratic National Committee were released, and it is becoming apparent in the aftermath that the hack was performed by foreign agents (most likely Russian) in an effort to disrupt American democratic procedures. The precedent for a government hack had been set last October when CIA director John Brennan’s email and personal government account were accessed by hackers. And, of course, in July of 2015 the massive Ashley Madison data breach was released with the personal information of members in its expansive database. In popular media shows like Mr. Robot exploit and interact with the growing attention on and interest in cyber-threats. The show follows a group of activist hackers and it deals directly with the mechanics of these sort of large-scale cyber crimes. But does the increased coverage and general volume of the conversation actually mirror an increase in cyber-attacks and increased vulnerability?
A recent study released in the Global State of Information Security Survey 2016 published by professional services network PwC found that from 2015-2016 cyber attacks rose by a higher margin than they had in the past ten years. The study was full of interesting findings about loss occurring within the business sector as cybercrime grows more organized and as companies fail to account for these sort of organized attacks. It would seem that the increased dialogue around these issues is, in fact, the fruit of increased threat and increased loss.
What the study reveals is not only that the interest around cyber-threats is warranted, but that it is not limited to the world of espionage and high-profile financial documents. Many of the companies surveyed in the research are small businesses which have online platforms that were not adequately protected or prepared for organized cyber-crime. It is promising to see, however, that the survey does suggest there is a growing collection of businesses who are increasing their budgets to account for the vulnerabilities in their infrastructure.
In our last post we examined the theoretical vulnerability an increasingly networked world presents, and in the data presented above we see the realization of this theory. The interconnected cyber-world we are living in holds enormous economic and social potential but the potential growth comes with subsequent potential for damage and loss. To adequately reap the benefits without exposing you, your business, or your customers to unnecessary risk it is more essential than ever to ensure that the appropriate security measures are put in place.