We all live in a world which is networked together, from internet banking to government infrastructure, and thus, network protection is no longer an optional extra. Cyber-attack is now an international concern, as high-profile breaches have given many concerns that hacks and other security attacks could endanger the global economy.
A cyber-attack is a deliberate exploitation of computer systems, technology-dependant enterprises and networks. Cyber-attackers use malicious code and software to alter computer code, logic, or data, resulting in disruptive consequences that can compromise data and lead to cyber-crimes such as information and identity theft or system infiltration.
In 2015, it was reported by computer security group Veracode, that defending the UK against cyber-attacks and repairing the damage done by hackers who penetrate security systems costs businesses £34 billion per year.
In August 2015, the personal attack of 2.4 million Carphone Warehouse customers, including bank details and encrypted card digits, was affected by a data breach. Similarly, in December 2015, it emerged that in the previous June, the personal details of 656,723 customers of high street pub chain JD Wetherspoon were revealed, and the data was available for sale on the dark web.
By far the biggest, and most recent data breach however, happened in October 2015 when almost 157,000 TalkTalk customers had their personal data hacked into. 15,656 customers had their bank account numbers and sort codes leaked, resulting in bank accounts being hacked. As a result, the telecoms company lost 101,000 customers and suffered a cost of £60 million.
Given that cyber-crime is worryingly regular, it is no surprise that governments and businesses are seeking elevated cyber defence strategies. In 2014, the European Network and Information Security Agency held a cyber security exercise involving 29 countries and over 200 organisations. The test simulated more than 2,000 cyber incidents including website defacements, access to sensitive informational and attacks on critical infrastructure, with software and hardware failures judged the most damaging security threats.
There are two broad categories of cyber-crime, breaches in data security and sabotage. Data security breaches refers to the theft of personal data, intellectual property or trade secrets, for example, whereas sabotage usually culminates in service attacks. These attacks flood web services with bogus messages, as well as more conventional efforts to disable systems and infrastructure.
Commercial losses, public relations issues, disruption of operations and the possibility of extortion aside, cyber-attacks may also impose companies to regulatory action, negligence claims, the inability to meet contractual obligations and a damaging loss of trust amongst customers and suppliers.
Cyber-crime is unlikely to slow down, despite government efforts and input from specialists. Its growth is being driven by the expanding number of services available online, and the increasing evolution of online criminals who are engaged in a continuous game with security experts.
With constant technical innovation, new dangers are constantly coming to the surface. For example, the migration of data to third-party cloud providers has created an epicentre of data and therefore, more opportunities to misappropriate critical information from a single target. Similarly, mobile phones are now targets, expanding the opportunities to penetrate security measures.
M2M (machine-to-machine) is used globally. This development of the Internet of Things, which enables communication between machines, is said to be responsible for a boost in information misuse. With much of the worlds controlling services and critical infrastructure already depending on M2M, protecting the network that controls and carries these services is imperative, especially since decision marketing is often done without human involvement.
Cyber security should be thorough and seamless, regardless or business size or organisational standing. Computer networks will forever be the target of criminals, and it can be argued that the danger of cyber-security breaches will only increase in the future as networks continue to expand. Having the right level of preparation and specialist assistance is vital to minimise and control damage, and recover from a cyber breach and its consequences.
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