Recently, the British government announced a massive investment to help cyber security. As the Guardian reports, £1.9bn was invested to protect the country from hacking attempts, across a range of areas: from individual hackers to entire teams from foreign countries. If a major country like Britain is taking this as seriously as any other kind of major threat, it’s worth wondering precisely how this affects us.
Why cyber security matters
Almost everyone is moving online. Data, business and communication are all performed on massive scales, but instantly. Today, you can send pictures and video to anyone in the world, store personal documents accessible across a range of devices and get driving assistance from your phone. But with such advances one can also expect new dangers. Cyber security threats are not only the concerns of people with expensive devices, but anyone who has access to the internet. Businesses in particular are vulnerable to cyber threats, since it could mean a complete breakdown of trust with customers. No one will want to work with businesses that provide no assurance of the safety of customer details.
To illustrate why we should be concerned, let’s examine some of the biggest, recent threats to cyber security.
The Yahoo hack
In September, it was revealed that 500 million Yahoo accounts had been affected by a massive hack. As one report noted: “Stolen user information included names, email addresses and answers to security questions, but did not include payment card data or unscrambled passwords, according to Yahoo.”
In response, Yahoo urged users to change their passwords and make them stronger. However, what should be noted is that those affected were average users – people just using emails and other important digital services. If even a major company like Yahoo can be targeted by hacks, it means smaller businesses ought to be preparing how they handle cyber security threats.
One of the most well-known hacks in recent memory involved another major company: Sony. CNBC summarizes:
“The hack revealed the personal information of tens of thousands of people, exposed embarrassing email exchanges between high-powered actors and executives, cost the studio tens of millions of dollars, and one top executive lost her job.”
Again, this shows that no matter how big the business or how important the person might be, they are vulnerable to expert hackers. Cyber security is a threat to everyone, from the person who makes a free Yahoo mail account to a Sony executive.
Russian hackers and American elections
One of the more troubling trends has involved elections. Given that so much has moved online, people have reason to have been concerned about vulnerability in the recent American election. As the LA Times reported: “Russia’s attempts to interfere with Hillary Clinton’s campaign is not in doubt, according to U.S. officials.” Though many have indicated any hacking attempt could not have had a significant effect, it is still troubling that it was somewhat possible. Here again, the targets are supposed to be some of the most protected assets in one of the most advanced countries in the world. And yet again, those affected range from Presidential nominees to the average voter.
What this means
As technology advances in ways people can’t predict, businesses ought to be one step ahead. From how people store data to how voting occurs, society might be advancing but it would be foolish to ignore the dangers from those advances.
This means a two-fold approach: looking at what technology can do and what threats it poses. For example, the Internet of Things might offer a number of advantages in future but as we’ve highlighted before, poses its own security risks. Businesses must begin acting today to prevent any harm in future.