anything that
can be
connected,
will be
connected

August 2017 Highlights &
Commentary

By Maria Townsend 18/8/2017
   
A Gartner report publicised this month  revealed that analysts are projecting worldwide spending on IT security products and services is set to reach a total of USD 86.4 billion in 2017.  What has brought about this rising demand for internet security companies and specialist services? 
  
Image sourced from Macau Daily Times
  
CYBERSECURITY

It is estimated that the average adult spends around 70% of their waking hours using digital media.  With so much time spent online, are we really aware of what lurks in the darkest corners of the cyber world and the threats we face being a part of it?  Cyber security affects us all.  The term “cyber security” was first coined in 1988 as a result of the first ever registered online virus called the Morris Worm.  The worm slowed down all affected computers on the internet to a point where they were unusable.  In an age when over 3.6 billion people globally, around half of the world’s population are using the internet, it is safe to say that we are now part of cyber space.  If you’re reading this, in one way or another, you are part of the cyber world and therefore vulnerable to a cyber-attack if your online usage is not properly managed.  Asia is said to have the largest number of Facebook users, capturing over 33.3% of the global market with social media reaching even the most rural communities.   If you don’t have a Facebook account yourself, you certainly know people who do have.  But how can having a social media account of any sort or simply being “online” affect you at all, and why is cyber security so important?


IDENTITY THEFT

Now more than ever people are sharing sensitive information about themselves online.  Cyber security, or ‘cyber insecurity’ has led to an increase in identity theft.  Our personal data, government records, financial and credit card details are computerised and therefore susceptible to attack.  Anyone can access this information, modify or erase the truth.


INTERNET OF THINGS

We live in a time where the standard is “anything that can be connected, will be connected”.  Your time in cyberspace is no longer limited to time spent on a PC or smart phone.  The Internet of Things (IoT), meaning the internetworking of physical devices via the Internet within everyday objects, embedding them to send and receive data covers a huge number of our personal belongings such as the fridge, TV, coffee machines, headphones, lamps.  At a higher and more worrying level, IoT includes our cars, hospital equipment and the jet engine of an aeroplane.  With broadband internet more widely available, the IoT offers endless opportunities for technological advancement but also opens us up to unimaginable attacks.


HOW DO THEY DO IT?

We are careful about who we allow into our homes and wouldn’t leave our front doors open, yet without some form of cyber security, we would effectively be leaving the door open on our computers.  Cyber-attacks are becoming more dangerous and more sophisticated.  There is so much information on the internet that can be easily accessed with a click of a button, but malware, malicious software, lurks within.  It has been estimated that over half the software written today is malware.  Net surfers are leaving themselves open to cyber criminals who are using malware to launch their attack with viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware and ransomware amongst their weaponry.  Without protecting your computer and network against these attacks, your personal information can be stolen, your computer can be temporarily disabled or left completely inoperable.  It is not limited to an individual hacking your computer to access your credit card details, as bad as that is, but can affect government infrastructure, healthcare, and corporations and even be a tool for terrorism.


COMBATTING CYBERATTACKS

Cyber security is now at the forefront of government agenda.  The gravity of potential attacks are clear.  Governments are engaging and defending themselves against a cyberwar.   Nations are pulling together to tackle this new and borderless attack.  In 2001, the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime was the first international treaty that sought to address Internet and computer crimes by harmonizing national laws and by increasing cooperation amongst nations.  On January 1st 2013, the EU established a European Cyber Crime Centre to help safeguard member state interests.  More recently, in May 2017, US President Trump signed an Executive Order outlining plans to improve data security and to better protect US critical infrastructure.

If you are a business owner, cyber security is imperative.  Not only can all your personal data be hacked and accessed, but all of your customers causing huge reputational damage.  In 2013, Sony was hacked costing the company millions in damages and reputation.  An organisation’s cyber security is only as strong as its weakest link.  It not only takes updated hardware and software, but also comprehensive training of staff.


LICENSING AND REGULATION

Should there be a license to use a computer as there is a licence to use a car?  Although computers are newer technology, and some have built in safety features, there seems to be very little laws governing its use.  Such freedom and weaknesses works to the benefit of hackers.  At the very least, compulsory training should be given on the use and protection necessary in using the Internet.  The number of jobs in cybersecurity is on the rise, and skills for cyber security is in high demand.  What does that mean for the future of cyber security?  Will we continue to have the various companies offering their software or will our future choices be dictated and controlled by law?  Let us hope that we will see a more formalised international movement to enable governments to work together and prosecute illegal cyberactivity.