Our world is incredibly dependent on technology. The benefits provided by the exponential growth of our technological ecosystem are far more significant than we ever expected. The opportunities that we now have access to are immense and plentiful, but so are the shortcomings. One of those shortcomings is how much more accessible and affordable it is to pull off these cybercrimes. Technology is more accessible to obtain, whereas before, it was limited to the privileged few. This allows criminals an easy barrier to entry when committing cybercrimes online. It also allows them to remain anonymous, thus making them harder to track down. Companies like Yahoo and PlayStation have suffered from multiple breaches, which resulted in customers’ data and money stolen. The biggest problem when it comes to cybercrime is that there is no one solution to any of these attacks. These intelligent hackers continue to evolve with new ways to pull off their deeds, and because of this, the cybersecurity community also needs to grow right along with it. The security of organizations and their data is now more critical than ever, and here are the reasons why.
**1. Data equals currency**
When it comes to attracting customers, data is king. The reason is simple. The more data you have on a potential customer, the easier it is to focus on their wants and needs. The problem is that almost everything we use online asks us for our email to sign up, and in doing so, we are giving up our data to websites that may not have the most robust cybersecurity. Once a hacker has your data, even if it’s just your first and last name or what city you live in, they have everything. They can find out where you work, what school you went to, and even your favorite restaurant. With this, a hacker can steal your identity and take out loans for a car or whatever else they want.
**2. Everyone is a target.**
People think they are safe because nothing has happened to them. They qualify this type of thought with statements such as, “I don’t use social media like Twitter or Facebook”, or “I don’t go to sites such as 4chan or whatever kids visit these days.” The problem with this is that it doesn’t matter to a hacker. If you use the internet for anything at all, you are susceptible to cybercrime. It doesn’t matter if you bank with JP Morgan or you only use LinkedIn. If you have any information online, it can be used in cybercrime. A new report came out that hackers attack a computer every 39 seconds. It’s important to mention that one attack can harm thousands of people. If a hacker can access a bank or global corporation, they can inflict severe damage to all employees, customers, and contractors associated with that organization. An attack was performed on the city of Atlanta back in 2018, where hackers used ransomware and asked for $51,000 in ransom. The result was that the city was offline for five whole days and costing the city up to $17 million in damages.
**3. Cost of Cyberattacks.**
We’ve already covered the Atlanta City cyberattack of 2018 that resulted in $17 million in damages. Experts are now estimating that cyberattacks could now cost up to $150 million on the low end. As companies continue to become interconnected with each other and the world, the risk of a cyberattack happening increases each day. This can be reduced through cyber awareness training for employees regarding their email, passwords, and workstation usage. A cyberattack can not only ruin a company financially but their reputation as a firm. Sony has suffered multiple cyberattacks, but the biggest one was back in 2014 when they were making a spoof film about Kim Jong-un called “The Interview”. It cost them $35 million in damages and affected their yearly earnings, but what it also did was affect the confidence of the public as well as the investors had in the company. The hackers also released emails from Sony executives that referred to celebrity actors as “spoiled and needy”. This led to several layoffs of high-profile managers within the organization. It took Sony several years to reverse the damage the cyberattack had done to their brand.
**4. Lives are at stake.**
Your health is essential, and it is important to everyone else, especially now since COVID-19 shook the world to its core. When was the last time you were in the hospital? Did you take a look at all the technology being used to pull up records or monitor your heart rate? What about those with breathing devices? Well, guess what, almost all of those devices are connected to the hospitals’ network. Not only can a cyberattack gain access to all the data, but hackers have the ability to shut down systems too. Imagine having to try and save someone’s life in the emergency room, and out goes all the power. The backup generators are down as well, and you know that energy is vital to saving lives. As someone who works in ER, you know every second counts. The longer the clock ticks, the less of a chance you have of saving that person. A single terrorist cyberattack directed at a hospital can put thousands of lives in danger at a moment’s notice. We must think more broadly about cyberattacks and what they can do.
**5. Small to big-scale terrorism.**
When we talk about terrorism, we mainly talk about bombings or other types of attacks that are easy for people to see, but what we don’t talk about are attacks that are done in secret. Back in 2016, Russian hackers launched an attack on a Ukrainian power line. The malware ended up shutting down a specific area of a power line for hours. Luckily enough, the power line workers did not arrive until after enough electrical power to kill a human being surged through the lines. What they discovered was that a timetable was set to allow power though so that whoever was working on the powerline at the time would be killed. If this can be done with power lines, imagine what else could be used as a weapon. Lizard Squad was a notorious group that ran DDos attacks on console gaming servers which cost Microsoft and Sony millions of dollars over time. Eventually, the group was arrested and charged one by one, but the damage had already been done.
**6. Trade secrets may be exposed.**
When you play poker, you try not to give away any hints or looks at your cards. In business, the same rules apply. When a company’s research and development team come out with a groundbreaking product or process that can turn the industry on its head, you do not want any of that information to leak out into the public before you can put it out on the market because once that information is out there, you better believe other companies will take what you have and create their iteration. To tighten up against potential leaks, you need tight cybersecurity and physical security. A lot of technical blueprints have been stolen and sold online to companies looking for an edge. These days the corporate scale gets even worse. Hackers can infiltrate executive emails, financial statements, and even unreleased plans for products that have just been greenlit for production. One of the biggest scandals recently in the video game industry was that CD Projekt Red’s game code for their flagship game Cyberpunk 2077 was being held hostage for ransom money. The hacker had managed to hack into CD Projekt Red’s secured servers and stole a ton of internal data. Read that sentence one more time. So even with a secured server, a hacker was able to make his way in and make the server his own. This shows that even without the threat of death or violence, a sole hacker can cripple an entire organization for a ransom fee.
Another issue is corporate espionage. We are not talking about a James Bond kind of deal where an extremely handsome man with expensive cars and suits running around doing crazy stunts. We are talking about an inconspicuous employee downloading anything they can get their hands on. Some are hired by companies, and others are contracted out. Some companies even test their employees by hiring contractors to pose as janitors and seeing who isn’t locking their computer when they leave to do something. Corporate espionage is a very real thing and has been going on since corporations have been founded. Who wouldn’t want a competitive edge in a cutthroat business?
**7. Government stability is at stake.**
International conflicts have been waged on different battlegrounds now. Gone are the days where countries invaded other countries and waged years of war. Now our warfare has become more advanced in the form of cyberattacks. In December 2016, Russia launched a large-scale cyberattack on a power source north of Kyiv, which took out an entire power grid for days in Ukraine. Unfortunately, due to the anonymity of the hackers, no one was able to pin the crime on anyone. It’s scary to think that there are governments out there who can cut power to an entire electrical grid on a whim and then get away with it. Thankfully, cybersecurity is one of the most significant growing fields globally. With excellent paying salaries, it seems the field continues to grow just as fast as the hackers evolve their tactics.
**8. Personal protection.**
Family, for many, is priority number one and everyone around the world knows that. You can look up anything about a person online now, such as:
* What school they went to.
* Where they lived in the past 5-10 years.
* Who they dated or married throughout their life.
* Their medical and dental records.
* Who their parents are.
* Who their children are.
* What events they like to attend.
* Where have they traveled locally or globally.
* What you purchased at Costco last week.
* The last service you subscribed to.
It’s a scary thought when you know criminals can access all this information for a low price or even free. They can locate you via your GPS on your phone or even by looking at a photograph you posted to your Instagram six months ago. That is how many stalkers track their victims. A Japanese singer was being stalked by a 26-year-old man who figured out her location simply through the reflection of her own eyes. He said he could zoom in on her eyes and make out the exact train station she took every day to work and followed her from there. He also said he studied the photographs of the inside of her apartment and studied the windows’ position and the light coming through the curtains to figure out which floor of the apartment complex she lived on. With higher quality cameras being installed into our phones and as you can see, there are many ways someone can get a hold of your whereabouts and cause you immediate harm.
These are the many reasons why cybersecurity is critical now and in the future. It is not just for big companies and government entities but also for everyday people like you and me. The world will continue to innovate with technology, and so will the bad actors along with it. These new-age criminals will continue to find holes in areas overlooked, and every precaution needs to be taken regarding the security of sensitive information. Everyone needs to be ready and aware of what they are doing when connected to the internet because if you are connecting with the world-wide-web, you can believe that the world-wide-web can also connect with you. Not everyone online operates with the same value system you do.