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Cost of cyber attacks

Thursday, May 18 2017

According to news reports, hackers exploiting malicious software stolen from the US National Security Agency executed damaging cyberattacks that by late last Friday, had spread to more than 74 countries eventually affecting computer in 150 countries. The attack forced Britain’s public health system to send patients away, freezing computers at Russia’s Interior Ministry and wreaking havoc on tens of thousands of computers elsewhere. The attacks amounted to a blackmail attempt spread by the internet, and underscored the vulnerabilities of the digital age. The malicious software was transmitted via email and locked hospitals out of their computer systems, demanding ransom before users could be let back in, with a threat that data would be destroyed if the demands were not met.

In the digital age, cyber security is perhaps the most important form of security individuals must be concerned with. Banks, schools, hospitals, businesses, governments and virtually every other modern institution you can think of that stores and organises its information electronically are prey. This means that all your most sensitive information — from credit card numbers and checking accounts, to medical records and phone bills — is accessible for viewing, stealing, or manipulating to anyone with a PC, an Internet connection, and some computer know-how. The increasingly computer-based world is increasingly vulnerable to malevolent computer hackers.

Hacking and other forms of cybercrime will continue its stratospheric growth over the next five years, according to a report published by Cybersecurity Ventures.

There are numerous contributors to this increase, which is expected to cost the world more than $6 trillion by 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015.

Data remains the primary hacker target. Microsoft predicts by 2020 data volumes online will be 50 times greater than today. There are 111 billion lines of new software code being produced each year — which will include billions of vulnerabilities that can be exploited, according to research conducted by Secure Decisions.

The $6 trillion estimate of costs is based on historical figures including recent year-over-year growth, a dramatic increase in hostile statesponsored and organised crime hacking activities, a cyber-attack surface which will be an order of magnitude greater than it is today, and the cyber defenses expected to be pitted against hackers and cybercriminals over that time. We in this country should pay attention to the cybercrime cost prediction, which includes damage and destruction of data, stolen money, lost productivity, theft of intellectual property, theft of personal and financial data, embezzlement, fraud, post-attack disruption to the normal course of business, forensic investigation, restoration and deletion of hacked data and systems, and reputational harm.

However, $6 trillion may actually be understated. The worldwide cyber damage estimates do not include unreported cybercrimes, legal and public relations fees, declines in stock and public company valuations directly and indirectly related to security breaches, negative impact on posthack ability to raise capital for startups, interruptions to e-commerce and other digital business transactions, loss of competitive advantage, departure of staff, recruiting replacement employees in connection with cyberattacks and resulting losses, and ongoing investigations to trace stolen data and money.

It is against this back drop that Trinidad and Tobago must think about information security. How are we going about safeguarding of computer systems and the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of the data they contain? Has this been addressed as a critical national policy issue? What is the policy concerning the transmission of information with FATCA? Are we legislatively prepared for this type of crime? While there appears to be tremendous effort to ensure the security of data involved in the transmission of data required by FACTA, do we have the systems in place to respond to a cyber-attack to any of our on-line systems such as banking? A word to the wise should be sufficient.



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