Nowadays, there are very few things left that we cannot do online. The vast majority of operations and services have been directed to the World Wide Web, all in the aim of optimizing the offline world. Connecting the entire world to a vast web of databases has made the twenty-first century society thrive at a blinding speed. But this cyber-progress has also rendered modern society vulnerable to an entirely new type of attacks.
Data hacking has evolved alongside data development, up to the point where it has reached cyber terrorism. These attacks can have significant political consequences, but the main targets remain businesses, which can be greatly affected by data breaches. This makes cyber security of paramount importance because a solid defense program is the only measure that can keep a business safe.
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Critical Cyber Attacks of the Past Years
These last few years have seen some of the most brutal cyber attacks in digital history. The most important aspect relayed by these attacks was the vulnerability of the online society, as the consequences of these data breaches proved to have a great impact on global politics. Here are a few noteworthy examples:
1. The Ransomware Attack
In May 2017, the ransomware attack has severely hit the NHS and international shipping company FedEx. This malware called "WannaCry" has also infected as many as 300,000 computer in over 150 countries worldwide.
Ransomware locks up files in an infected computer and encrypts them so that they cannot be accessed. Then, the owner of the computer receives a demand for a bitcoin payment to regain the encrypted files. The full impact of the ransomware attack has yet to be assessed, since its effects are still underway.
2. The Hacking of the US Elections and WikiLeaks
During the US elections, there have been numerous hacking attempts against the major institutions of the United States. These have been linked to Russian cyber terrorists aiming to gain access to American data. The central tactic used for these attacks was e-mail phishing, which is not among the most complex data hacking methods.
Nevertheless, one of these phishing emails got the hackers access to over 60,000 of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman's emails. They also managed to breach the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Then, these emails got to WikiLeaks and they were published before the US Presidential Election. As expected, this had a major influence on the development of Clinton's campaign.
As for WikiLeaks, it remains the single most influential vessel of cyber war to this day. The motto of Julian Assange's non-profit organization is "We open governments", but the sheer transparency of such institutions may not be the utopian dream it seems to be at first glance. While the debate over WikiLeaks' intentions continues, its involvement in the cyberwar remains crucial.
3. The Cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment
Another attack that raised some very pertinent questions was that on Sony Pictures Entertainment from 2014. A group of hackers named "Guardians of Peace" (GOP) have leaked confidential data belonging to the film studio, including private emails and unreleased A-list feature films. Then, the GOP demanded that Sony pulled its film "The Interview", a comedy centered on a plot to assassinate Kim Jong-Un, under penalty of terrorist attacks at the film's screenings.
Sony ultimately decided to cancel the film's premiere and theatrical screening and they opted for a digital release on December 25th, 2014. The attack was allegedly sponsored by North Korea, but this information remains purely circumstantial in the lack of hard evidence. While the impact that the attack had on American foreign politics remains paramount, the breach into Sony's data relayed the dire need for the development of the insurance industry's cyber policies, which must be equipped to cover such events.
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The Impact of Cyber Attacks on Business
As more and more aspects of business became integrated into the digital world, the need for cyber security increases along with it. While large companies stand a greater risk for cyber-attacks, it is absolutely crucial that all businesses have a solid cyber security policy in order to protect their data. If big businesses are already greatly invested in data security development, it remains of the utmost importance that smaller companies also integrate this into their business plan.
In fact, the first step that small business owners must take is to understand the need for cyber security and why it is an essential part of business development. According to a study conducted by Deloitte, a cyber-attack can have as many as 14 types of impacts on a company.
Aside from the well-known incident costs, such as fines, attorney fees, and technological investigation costs, cyber-attacks also determine hidden costs that may not be entirely visible at first. These take full effect two years or more following the breach and include increases in company insurance fees and the devaluation of the trade name. This makes cyber security an integrated component of any company's plan.