Sony. Talk-talk. Yahoo. These are just three examples of high-profile corporations that have suffered major network security breaches in the last two years. Many experts are warning that 2017 could well be the worst year yet for network security, with cyber-attacks and incidences of sensitive and private data compromises reaching an all time high.
The reasons for the projected doom and gloom are numerous: we are relying more and more on data accessed through cloud storage; our day-to-day lives are increasingly reliant on online platforms to function most efficiently – you only have to glance through the Apps on your mobile phone to get some idea of just how reliant we are on the digital day-to-day – and all of this data sits on potentially vulnerable servers and networks somewhere in the world.
Unfortunately, where there’s servers and valuable information, there are those who wish to access that information for nefarious reasons, or sometimes simply to cause some tangible latent havoc. This is why cybersecurity is so important and why those that administer it can’t rest on their laurels.
So far so unsurprising, but why has 2017 been earmarked in particular; why are experts warning industries to tighten their defences and take out extra measures to combat such episodes this year? A lot of it scan be traced back to around the year 2013, and much of it is down to something called APTs (advanced persistent threats). These stem from viruses and malware that made their way onto systems across the world in the early 2010s onwards, with a peak in global distribution taking place in 2013. Most organisations have only learnt about these threats and ‘zero-day attacks’ (digital viral infections of an unspecified chronology or trigger time) in the last three to four years and therefore many cybersecurity systems are only just weeding them out.
This means that hackers and attackers have had a long time to infect systems underneath everybody’s radar, leaving sophisticated malware embedded in systems across the globe, ready to activate at a specified or random time. Think about how the aliens in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 iteration of War of The Worlds managed to attack from within by burying themselves in the ground long before the attack took place, and you get a basic idea of the sinister way these threats work.
The implications of these silent, stealth attacks are potentially severe. Due to their very nature, they have been largely undetectable for years and even as they are starting to be rooted out, nobody really knows what other threats they have laid down, initialised, or left behind in the meantime. Many organisations can’t even tell if the information stored on their systems has already been compromised; vast amounts of data across the world could potentially already be in the wrong hands.
It may sound like scaremongering but there is mounting evidence that suggests these embedded viruses are only the tip of a security compromising iceberg, and with recent attacks and major information leaks making headline news, there is not much reason to suggest otherwise. This is why many security experts are now labelling 2017 as the worst year for network security in history.