The age of digitization has led to many significant changes, both in our day-to-day lives and larger scale operations. One such example is the nature of terrorism. In the last decade or so, a new wave of terror attacks have surfaced — namely cyber-terrorism and cyber-warfare. 2017 saw one of the biggest cyber threats ever, in the form of malware built off a worm called “WannaCry.” Through a phishing scam, the malware managed to infect computers and lock systems down. This scam demanded $300 in bitcoins to get users back into their own files and devices.
The attack hit over 200,000 computers in 150 countries, including the United States, Russia, Britain, Spain, India, Taiwan, Ukraine, and more. Specifically, the targets included universities, the Russian Interior Ministry, FedEx, railway systems, and more. One of the worst hit targets was Britain’s National Health Services. Because hospitals, ambulance companies, and doctors’ offices were hit, outpatient services had to be canceled and surgeries had to be rescheduled.
Large Scale Attacks
With major disruptions caused internationally, the “WannaCry” attack is undoubtedly one of the most damaging cyber threats the world has experienced. But what is it that makes such large-scale attacks possible? In an article on The Week, author John Spross claims that the process of globalization is one of the culprits. This is because globalization rests on a foundation of worldwide interconnections. Therefore, this creates a world where telecommunications allow us to connect easily. This digitally connected world, in turn, is vulnerable to attacks like “WannaCry.”
Later in 2017, the United States government took a rare step and attributed “WannaCry” to North Korean backed hackers. In a broader sense, cyber threats like “WannaCry” have exposed major systemic risks, showing the potential for the rising threat of cyber terrorism. Spross, in his article on The Week, asks the very relevant question, “If such attacks continue — and plenty of experts say they will — how will globalization adapt? Can it even survive?” Looking back at global cyber threats such as these, some alarming emerging trends are beginning to take shape.
The Consequences of Cyber Threats are Dire
In the modern age, companies are very dependent on their data and systems. Therefore, any interference with their processes can wreak havoc. From affecting market capitalization and endangering executive leadership, to major losses in sales and diminished profits, cyber-crime has the potential to destabilize major enterprises in a matter of a few hours. Additionally, cyber-criminals are becoming more bold. For example, many have shifted their targets from the pockets of consumers to global economic giants.
Today, this changing trend in the nature of cyber threats is of much concern to the banking industry. After all, large-scale attacks can cause a “run” on the global banking system in a worst-case scenario. A digital blackout following a cyber-attack makes it difficult to carry out even normal business transactions.
While advanced cybersecurity is a must, businesses must also employ basic (and often overlooked) security measures. Some of these measure include installing anti-viruses and utilizing online signatures. These methods will help ensure that your business does not come to a complete standstill in the wake of cyber threats. Hopefully, basic communications from personal devices can carry on, making it easier to take immediate restrictive action.
Cyber-threats Are Becoming Increasingly Sophisticated
Hackers continue to increase in sophistication, and have access to very advanced hacking tools through a thriving black market. Cyber threats are very well funded, thoroughly coordinated, and sometimes even sponsored by entire nations. Even a company like Deloitte, known to be the world’s largest cybersecurity consultant, is vulnerable to attack, as shown by their security breach in October 2017.
In this volatile cyberworld, it is almost safer for businesses to assume that they will inevitably be breached at some point in time. With this assumption, they are then forced to implement adequate controls and employ professionals that specialize in cybersecurity so they can detect unusual activity and minimize damage and disruption.
States Are Far From Immune
As of late, the involvement of various opposing countries in cyber operations is becoming apparent. In fact, according to the Cyber Operations Tracker by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), 22 countries are suspected of having sponsored cyber operations, including the United States.
From using cyber operations to cause widespread power outages to hacking and rigging elections, countries and large populations are often the unfortunate victims of cyber threats. Possible tactics by hackers include distributed denial-of-service attacks. Additionally, ransomware aims to disrupt and destabilize government computer networks and systems. In times like these, keeping elections safe and secure should be a top priority for officials. States have also started sanctions and indictments to punish their alleged attacker and/or state-sponsor.
For globalization to effectively survive, we must give cybersecurity due importance. As the world becomes more and more connected, nation states and governing bodies must tighten cyber regulations and invest in security measures. Today, in light of these emerging cyber threats, it is vital to take cybersecurity more seriously than ever before.