Cyber Security – Keep your (digital) powder dry!

Some experts believe that there will be 200 billion connected devices by 2020.  We all live in a world which is being knitted closer and closer together, from internet banking to government infrastructure, and thus, network protection is no longer an optional extra.  Planes, trains, cars, houses, cities, and even our pets are being connected by IoT.  As a society we are putting software everywhere and our reliance upon this intensifies daily.  This is changing the way we live and how we interact with the world around us.

Ask yourself – How many of us place blind faith in technology?   Have we grossly underestimated how vulnerable we truly are?

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.   Cyber-attacks have rapidly become an international concern, as an increase in high-profile breaches could endanger the global economy.

Most technology is vulnerable and can be hacked and we see examples of this every day.  In the last year: Connected cars have been hacked, a popular smart home alarm system has been hacked, implantable medical devices like pacemakers have been hacked, plane systems have been hacked, critical infrastructure like a power grid and a dam were hacked, mobile banking apps have been hacked, smart city technology has been hacked, etc, etc.

In 2015, the IT security group Veracode reported that defending the UK against cyber-attacks and repairing the damage done by hackers costs businesses £34 billion per year.  With constant technology 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 easy targets, expanding the opportunities to penetrate security measures.

In recent news, British organisations could now face fines of up to £17m (or 4% of global turnover) if they fail to take measures to prevent cyber-attacks that could result in major disruption to services such as transport, health or electricity networks.

Albeit a “last resort”, the move comes after the NHS became the highest-profile victim of a global ransomware attack, which resulted in operations being cancelled, ambulances being diverted and patient records being made unavailable.  The issue came to the fore again after a major IT failure at British Airways left 75,000 passengers stranded – costing the airline £80m – although the company blamed a power supply issue rather than a cyber-attack.

The digital and culture minister, Matt Hancock, said: “We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to live and be online, with our essential services and infrastructure prepared for the increasing risk of cyber-attack and more resilient against other threats such as power failures and environmental hazards.”