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Digital dilemma

by Brian Sims
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk UK

Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk UK

According to a report issued by European policing agency Interpol, the first ‘cyber murder’ isn’t far away. Flaws in online security coupled with the increasing use of web-connected health-based devices could be the conduits for such an occurrence.

Interpol’s report cites another document – published by US security concern IID – predicting the inaugural death caused by a “hacked Internet-connected device” could well occur before the end of this calendar year. Frightening.

A series of high-profile cases have duly pinpointed the vulnerabilities of web-enabled gadgets to sabotage perpetrated by hackers. Prominent among them was the episode involving former US Vice-President Dick Cheney, who last year revealed that the wireless function on his defibrilator had been actively disabled to prevent a targeted cyber attack.

Worryingly, Interpol’s report suggests that police forensics teams are ill-equipped to deal with this threat. It also ponders whether face and voice recognition technology could be open to exploitation by criminals who may use wireless systems to lock people out of their homes or vehicles and demand that ‘ransom’ payments be issued before access is duly restored.

It’s certainly the case that ‘The Internet of Everything’ – which sees hospital healthcare systems and everyday devices, etc connected through online networks – represents an entirely new attack vector for cyber-savvy criminals to potentially exploit.

If all that wasn’t enough to worry about, it has emerged that MPs are now fearful the UK’s financial system could come under sustained cyber attack. A series of meetings have been convened amid concerns UK markets may not be sufficiently protected. This news emerges after last July’s security breach at JP Morgan – one of the biggest breaches in banking history, in fact – during which information belonging to over 70 million households and seven million businesses was compromised.

Add-in the breach at online marketplace eBay earlier this year which forced the company to advise no less than 145 million users they should change their passwords in order to avoid the potential compromise of personal data like e-mail addresses, dates of birth and telephone numbers. Then there’s the insidious rise of The Dark Web to be considered.

Taken together, these incidents absolutely highlight the sheer scale of the problem facing the authorities. As always, the $64,000 question is: ‘What do we do about it?’

Perhaps the answer lies in changing the culture of ‘cyber’. Recognised expert Martin Smith has explained how enlightened companies have determined to make cyber security part of ‘business as usual’.

“They have shown how good security can be a business enabler rather than just a cost on the bottom line,” asserts Smith. “They have proven that it is indeed possible to gain by not losing. They have brought cyber security from the periphery and the shadows into the centre of the business stage, and they have merged it – and all other security functions – into a single risk management organisation embracing the ‘convergence agenda’.”

Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK

October 2014

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