Cybersecurity vs. cyber crimes: the global cost

Cyber technology dominates the world’s economic, commercial, political, social and personal processes. Any compromise of this technology can harm a nation’s security, wealth and social fabric. Recent events have more than proved how breached cybersecurity can affect infrastructure, political outcomes, corporate standing, and personal data globally.

As cyber technology evolves and progresses, moving on from the age of connectivity and internet into artificial intelligence and automation, everyone and anyone who is online feels threatened and unsafe The whole concept of a borderless, wireless world, which makes everything accessible at a click, also allows the same system open to theft in any form.

Forms of Cybercrimes

Cybercrimes range from denial of service attacks, also known as DDoS, to data theft, extortion, and destruction of information. The tools of the trade can include malware, ransomware, spyware, social engineering, and manipulation of smart devices.

Data breaches and malicious ransomware have become the bane of organizations, individuals and countries, infecting communications and information networks across the world.

Data breaches in the United States in the first half of 2017 touched 6 billion. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) noted 1,022 data breaches until September 2017. It found over 163 million records compromised in that period. A rise of 22.8 percent from 2016. University of Phoenix’s annual cybersecurity survey found that 43 percent of U.S. adults have experienced a personal data breach in the past three years.

Recent Attacks

The year 2017 itself saw unprecedented upheavals in the cybersecurity space. Critical hacks, breaches, and leaks impacted world events, institutions, infrastructure, and companies around the world. To list a few: Crash Override and Triton hacked utilities in Ukraine and the Middle East; credit firm Equifax disclosed a massive breach of personal information of 145.5 million customers; Yahoo confirmed that data of 3 billion of its users had been compromised. Uber’s 57 million users’ data was stolen by cyber criminals. Wannacry ransomware wormed its ways into public utilities and corporations bringing down the National Health Services in the United Kingdom. It affected around 300,000 computers in approximately 150 countries. NotPetya and Badrabbit, were other notable malwares that disrupted the world cyber workings. Wikileaks Vault 7 and 8 exploited mac, android and windows vulnerabilities and used wi-fi signals to track devices and leak information.

Russia’s alleged interference in the United States election result through fake news and botnets on social platforms is still under investigation.

Global ransomware damage cost over $5 billion in 2017, according to a survey. The FBI estimates  that cyber ransom payments run into US $1billion annually.

Most experts believe that an aggressive information and awareness campaign is needed to educate people about the dangers involved in just giving a nominal nod to cybersecurity. Nearly half of all Americans may have had their Social Security numbers exposed in 2017.According to a recent study by the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, over 50 percent of people click on links in emails from strangers, even when they are aware of the risks of phishing, (fraudulent emails sent to install malware ). With more than 3.8 billion users of internet in 2017, which is expected to go up to 7.5 billion in 2030, hackers have a burgeoning customer base to target. Going by the numbers, cyber fraud is fast becoming a very lucrative industry.

Security Measures

Most users and businesses are ill-equipped against the sophistication of the hackers. In most places, IT security is an afterthought. Small businesses tend to rely on firewalls, antivirus software and do not install basic protective measures such as online VPN.

Industry experts believe ransomware damage costs will rise to $11.5 billion in 2019 and that a business will fall victim to a ransomware attack every 14 seconds.

The bottom line is that almost anything controlled by technology is vulnerable to attacks. Cloud sharing gives greater storage and flexibility in application usage but comes with a high risk of interference too. Artificial intelligence, cyber security experts fear, will become a handy tool in the hands of hackers with its automation and cost-effective usage, allowing them to manipulate video and audio impersonation techniques. Hackers have been successful in hijacking AI controlled vehicles, medical devices, and even toys and smart devices (which use wi-fi) to spy.

To mitigate these threats requires a very vigilant active network of shared expertise among professionals, organizations and governments.

As Shimon Peres said, “Science knows no borders, technology has no flag, information has no passport. The new challenges transcend the old notion of boundaries.” International and national laws need to evolve with the new technologies The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect this May, and lawmakers in the U.S. are proposing stricter data breach legislation. Governments all over the world are becoming strict, and imposing heavy fines over misuse of data compromising technologies.

Future of Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity spending is expected to exceed $1 trillion from 2017 to 2021. In this war of cybersecurity verses cyber attacks, the odds seem to favor the aggressor, as the defender has a complex interwoven system to guard, whereas the enemy can attack at any point, with the domino effect spreading the damage.

“Security in the century ahead will depend more on our moral imagination — and with it, the ability to develop concepts of restraint — than it will on amazing technological breakthroughs,” according to former four-star general and CIA director David Petraeus.

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