Digital Insecurity

In today’s ever-advancing digital age, where everything from our watches to our cars are connected online, an increasing number of people are asking a common question – How do I keep my data secure?

From ransomware attacks to Government breaches, digital security has become an increasingly scrutinized topic over the . According to Statista, there are more than 23 billion connected (IoT) devices deployed worldwide and this number is said to reach 75 billion by 2025.

The scope of the problem

Cyber-Attacks and Cyber-Defense has become a relentless game of cat and mouse between would-be attackers and users, where it has become nearly impossible to be 100% immune from attacks.

As we progress into the future, cyber-attacks are getting increasingly frequent, and current statistics show that an attack is carried out every 39 seconds. Defending against such attacks is costly and cost rises exponentially as breaches of information are directed at large organisations and Governments.

Important facts about cyber-attacks:

  • By 2020 the average data-breach cost is estimated to exceed $150 Million in damage annually.
  • Government websites, infrastructure and data centers are breached with increased frequency and targets are getting broader to include popular services and fintech platforms such as Bitcoin exchanges.
  • The most affected industries attacked are Retail, Technology and Governments, with a target towards smaller businesses because of their weaker infrastructure.

Notable Attacks

Cyber-attacks on cryptocurrency:
A recent attack in South Korea
, targeting a bitcoin exchange known as Coinrail has caused an estimated loss of $40 Million (Now $30 Million after the depreciating cost of the cryptocurrency). The attackers allegedly took advantage of the relatively weak-security placed by the organization to steal cryptocurrency tokens worth tens of millions of dollars.
After the attack the company safely moved most of its assets to a “cold-wallet” (offline storage) to maintain security while its building its service back up.

Another huge bitcoin heist took place earlier this year where more than $500 Million was stolen from a cryptocurrency exchange in Japan known as Coincheck.

Attacks like these are not the only threat to cryptocurrency. A recent report showcases that Bitcoin prices were manipulated. The report explains that a cryptocurrency known as Tether was used to buy out Bitcoin and increase the demand for it, thereby increasing the total value of the cryptocurrency. This security breach is allegedly largely responsible for the 2017 surges in Bitcoin currency prices.

Attacks and Vulnerabilities on computers:

In August 2017 a Google researcher found dangerous exploits in Intel Processors (as old as 20 years) where malicious code would be injected into the PC system at a kernel level. These exploits were designated as “Specter” and “Meltdown” respectively. The exploits were communicated to Intel by the researchers and were made public 6 months after discovery in early 2018.

Patches for these exploits were sent out periodically and required periodic BIOS updates which most consumers were unable to execute , causing large numbers of these devices to still be left vulnerable.

Ransomware Attacks:

Last year a ransomware attack popularly known as WannaCry, infected millions of computers. The malicious program encrypted the data of hard drives and displayed messages asking for payments. The attack found itself on a computer in a hospital connected to the UK’s National Health Services servers and managed to infect hundreds of thousands of PCs containing classified and important patient, personal and hospital information.

How many people are affected yearly from cyber security attacks?

The scale of the digital industry has been on the rise since the past few years and so has the attacks on it.  According the a statistics from the ONS Crime Survey, just over 4 Million individuals became a target of cybercrime in just 2016. This number was dwarfed in the following year as 900+ Million people became a target of cybercrimes in 2017 according to the Norton Cyber Security Report, an increase by a factor of 240+ stealing more than $171 Billion USD.

The huge influx of cybercrimes in recent years has lead researchers to predict that damage caused from cyber-attacks may cause as much as $6 trillion USD in losses in the near future. This damage in typically spread over attacks on individuals, organizations and Governments.

How can the effects of Cybercrime be reduced?

Because of how fast the digital industry is growing, threats like these will continue to exist if not increase.

Preemptive measures can be taken to reduce the impact of cyber-attacks as a consumer the basic and the best practice is to make sure all of your devices are up to date and are running the latest security patches, you should be looking into updating and patching all known bugs, hopping on to the most secure OS builds and keep a backup of all data in case of breaches.

Business can look into making sure they’re on the most secure platform, running HTTPS, latest security patches, frameworks and such.

Governments and other big organizations should look into securing their data centers. Employing white hats to find exploits and patch them before they are discovered by black hats.

As cyberattacks get increasingly complex, so does the defense against them. Consumers can research on current vulnerabilities of their systems through reputable tech-news portals such as; The Verge, TechRadar, BBC and CNet to stay up to date. Even though many Anti-Virus Softwares (AVs) offer in-depth system analyses which can be used to find vulnerabilities lurking on your PC,  users should still ensure that they are well aware and take necessary precautions so that cyber-attacks can be easily avoided.

We will continue to explore further emerging technologies in an upcoming article and will showcase how we can further avoid cyber-attacks and make them difficult to penetrate our systems. Governments, Business and Consumers can all benefit from incorporating robust technologies, strengthening their cybersecurity, and tightening their online footprint to stay ahead of the attacks.