Cyber Security & the Future
What is Cyber Security?
Cyber security is the body of technology designed to protect systems, networks, and programs from third party digital attacks. These malicious cyber attacks are executed with aims at accessing, modifying, or destroying sensitive information. This includes everything from extorting money from businesses to sabotaging business processes. Ultimately, the goal of cyber security is to serve as an impenetrable armor between confidential data and third party hackers.
Though often confused and used interchangeably with cyber security, information technology (IT) security, is a subset of cyber security that effectively prevents unauthorized access to digital assets including computers, networks, and confidential data. IT security focuses on maintaining the integrity and privacy of data even against the most sophisticated cyber criminals.
Why is Cyber Security Important?
For many years, the only users who needed to concern themselves with the ins and outs of cyber security were high ranking corporate business leaders who depended on their IT departments to ensure all digital data was securely stored and protected. It was commonly thought that as long as top performing anti-virus programs and encryption tools were in place, all was well. However, as technology grew more advanced and the internet made its way into everyday homes, the minimalist cyber security fence in place grew increasingly weaker.
Today, the average American’s life is wholly inundated with web connected technology that is constantly at risk to third party attackers. In essence, the omnipresence of the internet’s reach and our devout engrossment with smart devices presents cyber security as something no one can afford to ignore.
While cyber security is important for several reasons, the core importance lies in the simple fact that important data should be well protected and accessible to authorized users only. Government, military, financial, medical, and corporate digital landscapes are imbued with an unprecedented amount of sensitive data ranging from intellectual property to personal information. Unauthorized access to these data collections can be massively devastating, so the consequences of poor cyber security practices and implementations are immensely severe.
Increasing Volumes of Sensitive Information Online
To simplify, cyber security is incredibly important because while the internet is free to access and use, it’s also a fruitful breeding ground for cyber criminals to enact their many different types of cyber attacks and hacks. As long as people and organizations transmit and store confidential data online there is a need for proper security measures. As the volume and sophistication levels of cyber attacks evolve and increase, organizations and individuals must work harder to keep their sensitive information safely secured.
The Current State of Cyber Security
2013 marked the first year where the nation’s top intelligence officials cautioned that cyber attacks were the top threat to national security, eclipsing even terrorism. Since then, we have witnessed some of the most harrowing data breaches to date. Modern cyber criminals are more resourceful and adroit than ever before, finagling their way into intricate high level systems and accounting for trillions of dollars in losses.To best grasp the current state of cyber security, let’s take a look at recent breaches, costs, facts, and figures to gain a more informed perspective.
The number of large scale, high impact breaches continues to increase with every passing year, suggesting that not only are the cyber criminals behind these attacks becoming more sophisticated but that they’re also affecting more people both nationally and globally. Let’s take a look at some of the most harrowing data breaches of 2019. WhatsApp- During May 2019, WhatsApp revealed that a vulnerability in the system was hacked and spyware was installed on users’ phones. Third party cyber criminals were able to install surveillance technology onto the phones of WhatsApp users who answered their seemingly innocent phone calls through the app. The messaging system, owned by Facebook, is home to over 1.5 billion users, though the number of affected users is still unknown. Quest Diagnostics- Over 11.9 million patients’ medical and financial data were exposed in a massive June 2019 Quest Diagnostics breach. The clinical laboratory company announced that an unauthorized user had gained access to confidential data on nearly 11.9 million patients, including credit card details and social security numbers. Ultimately, the party responsible for the breach was revealed as the American Medical Collection Agency, a partner debt collector. .Capital One- In one of the largest financial institution hacks in history, Capital One’s July 2019 data breach affected over 100 million people. This figure included every existing member, every former member, and anyone who has ever applied for a Capital One credit card. By bypassing a misconfigured web application firewall, the hacker was able to access everything from transaction histories and balances to credit scores and social security numbers.
The financial costs of cyber crimes have been on a steady rise as average expenditures on cyber crime continue to increase dramatically. The costs associated with these crimes are also on the rise, posing serious financial threats to companies who have yet to make cyber security a top priority in their budgeting. Data breaches cost companies an average of $150 per compromised account. This number is a slight increase from 2018’s estimate of $148 per account, though it’s worth noting that this number has steadily increased with every passing year indicating that data breaches are increasing in cost-severity. Global spending on cyber security is expected to reach $6 trillion by 2021. In order for large scale fundamental change to take place, organizations of all sizes need to make significant changes toward bolstering security measures to sufficiently battle the challenges brought forth by diligent cyber hackers. This means rearranging budgets and allocating a higher amount of funding toward effective and regular cyber security programs and practices.
Facts and figures
43% of all cyber-attacks are targeted at small businesses. While this may be shocking as larger, more profitable businesses may be the more lucrative avenue, hackers target small business owners because they are far less likely to have foolproof cyber security measures in place. With the right techniques, cyber criminals can easily gain access to small business owners’ company data and steal consumer information including sensitive personal credentials, credit card details, and social security numbers. Only 10% of cyber crimes are reported in the U.S annually. Though the U.S. is often regarded as a world-leading hub of technology, this status seems to downplay the glaring rate of unreported cyber crimes. While efforts are being made toward raising that number, the obstacle of proving a cyber crime makes it justifiably difficult. For example, in the vast majority of ransomware cases, it can difficult for the targeted victim to seek professional help as the attacker may threaten to expose sensitive information if their desires are unmet. Over 77% of organizations do not have a Cyber Security Incident Response plan. A Cyber Security Incident Response plan is designed to serve as a safety net for companies vulnerable to any form of data breach. These plans are intended to soften the blow and ease the associated costs with the volume of compromised accounts.
The Future of Cyber Security
The future of cyber security depends on battling the current challenges and vulnerabilities of modern cyber security programs. This, however, proves difficult as the face of cyber crime is constantly changing and evolving, becoming smarter and more elusive with every new technological roll out. Traditionally, organizations and governments have focused most of their cyber security efforts and resources on perimeter security measures that are implemented to protect only their most critical data and network system components. One of the most significant drawbacks to this tactic is that it only protects against known threats, meaning newly developed hacks and techniques will have no trouble infiltrating considerably robust protection systems. As cyber threats advance faster than governments and organizations can keep up, the call for hardened cyber security comes in higher demand. To build an effective top-end cyber security system, there needs to be seamless coordination of the following security measure working simultaneously: network security, application security, disaster recovery/incident response plans, end-user training, endpoint security, database and infrastructure security, cloud security, data security, identity management, and mobile security. With each of these parts working symbiotically, governments, organizations, corporations, and everyday people are far better prepared to battle cyber attacks in real time.
Shaping the Future of Cyber Security
While the threat of cyber attacks poses a significant challenge to organizations and individuals across all industries around the globe, the urgency will only increase as technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and the Internet Of Things develop and reshape the ways in which we interact with the world around us. Should there be any hope in battling the rising number of attacks and associated costs? The collective attitude towards cyber security needs to be led from the top down. Enterprises must do their part in wrestling with changes to the current state of cyber security by sharing threat data and investing in intricate, effective solutions that are near foolproof. Ultimately, the future of cyber security is simple; cyber crime will continue to rise and eager, mal-intended hackers will continue to seek out weak systems and extort what data they can. It lies in the hands of society’s decision makers to make the overhaul changes necessary to better protect themselves and the public.