Companies in leading global economies face rising cyber threats

March 25, 2016 / by / 0 Comment
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Companies in the U.S., and in other big economies like the U.K. and Australia, are, rightfully, taking the necessary steps to protect themselves from cyber threats. The threat of an attack is only a matter of time, not of possibility. These firms are no longer thinking, “Can they?” but “When and how?” A report by Bloomberg widens the categories of attackers from a 13-year-old “kid with a script,” hackers out for fun, to entire rogue nations.

Orion Hindawi, Chief Technology Officer of security firm Tanium, told Bloomberg that many of his client companies have left their “front doors and windows open” for cyber attack. Either negligence, ignorance or carelessness have led to the lack or failure of installing basic computer security systems such as the right patch or a code for de-encryption. He pointed out that these alone could invite a teenager with the right tools to hack into their vulnerable websites.

However, in the same report, Crowdstrike chief executive officer George Kurtz responds that larger threats loom beyond the young hackers who just want to have fun. He says that threats from hostile nations are very real and should be prepared for. As an example for very real threat of ignored cyber security, he cites Chinese companies that may want to obtain privileged high-tech information and highly-confidential tricks of the trade that fuels the success of American firms.

There are various of the kinds of cyber threats that any company or organization can face any time. First is intellectual property theft, which gives a hacker access to confidential and valuable business intelligence owned by a company. Second is service disruption, which can upset customer interaction and affect the bottomline. Third is data corruption, which makes information irretrievable or useless. Fourth is the destruction of actual property such as hardware; entire expensive computer systems can no longer be fixed but have to replaced. Finally is ‘ransomware’ – or stealing and encrypting a file which can only be released back to the proper owner after the payment of a huge amount of money.

Furthermore, AFR mentions major U.S. banks’ admission to suffering attacks, especially service disruptions which paralyzed their web sites and the infrastructure behind it. These banks include the Bank of America, BB&T, Capital One, Citigroup, Fifth Third Bank, HSBC, JP Morgan, PNC, US Bancorp, and Wells Fargo. Some observers believed that the attack on JP Morgan was caused by Russians who were reacting to US-led sanctions.

Perhaps, no cyber-attack has more recently exposed the vulnerability of corporations than the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack or the Sony Hack. The group claiming to be responsible called Guardians of Peace demanded the halt and pull out the comedy film The Interview, which is a comedy about assassination plans on North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un.

Fortune calls the attack as one that “terrified corporate America”  and enumerates the catastrophic consequences on the studio: deletion of all information on half of the studio’s 6,800 computers; the destruction of computer hardware that forced the employees to go back to working on fax machines and printed documents; and the unleashing of all confidential information, from work-in-process film scripts to salary lists, to public-sharing servers.

The energy industry is also not prepared for cyber-attacks. IT Pro Portal reports from a Tripwire study. More than 80 percent of the IT professionals from the energy sector admit that they are ill-equipped to deal with cyber threats which can cause actual physical damage to their companies. About 78 percent of these respondents believe that the attack will come from “state-sponsored” sources or hostile nations and terrorist groups.

In another issue of the Australian Financial Review, Harrison Young, director of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, points out that firewalls are virtually useless.Instead, he writes that what companies need is “is the ability to detect and counteract intrusions quickly – to assume your defenses will occasionally be breached and focus on recovery time.”

The explosion of technology including a perpetually wired world adds urgency to the situation. Soon, the world will be a place where connectivity is continuous 24/7, and today, that is seen in tech products like power bank boosters from Apple and Samsung, network extenders from 5BARz International, and the developing Internet of All Things. With this kind of rapid information flow, cyber threats can no longer be ignored.

Whether the attack will come from your neighborhood hacker or an enemy of the United States, preparation must become paramount to any U.S. company.



Arturo Garcia is a Peruvian-Filipino freelance journalist. He is a self-confessed football fan like most Latin Americans, although he never learned to enjoy basketball, his Filipina mother’s favorite sport. He started out as a political writer for a local daily in Peru, but now focuses on everything-tech and business. Arturo studied Economics at Unibersidad de Lima and currently lives at an apartment in Salinas Valley, Northern California, exactly 725 meters from John Steinbeck’s hometown.