The Internet Grows More Dangerous

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The Internet Grows More Dangerous

Any assumption that technological advances in cyber security have made the Internet safer is simply wrong. Consider just a few examples:

  • A Microsoft Windows computer worm labeled "Stuxnet" is now targeting industrial software and equipment.
  • Malware has been widely detected in several cloud computing services and are now showing up on mobile devices as well.1
  • According to an eCrimes Trends Report, phishing attacks were up 12 percent in the first quarter of 2011.2
  • Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, which focus on a single target to overwhelm it, creating a denial of service for regular users, are on the rise. Such attacks were run recently against the NASDAQ stock exchange, the department of Defense Research and Development of Canada, WordPress, eight Tunisian government Web sites, and Egypt's official government Web sites.
  • Even as American members of an international hacker group known as "Anonymous" were arrested in states all across the country, the group claimed responsibility for breaching cybersecurity at NATO and accessing large volumes of highly classified documents.3 In the aftermath, NATO found itself trying to determine the extent of the damage done by the group posting many of the documents online and working to identify how the hackers gained access.

These are just a few of the many varieties of attacks that are on the rise. The motivations range from financial and geopolitical gains to a thirst for notoriety. Like terrorists, the latter group of hackers is particularly hard to defend against because they simply want to make a name for themselves. They have no concern whatsoever for the inconvenience and economic damage their activities cause.

The more dependent we become on cyberspace, the more vulnerable we become to all these threats. Unfortunately, there is no practical way for society to become less dependent. Why? Because business efficiency and productivity has increased with every step we've taken toward greater reliance on computers and networks.

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It began with mainframes, transitioned to minis, moved to PCs, and accelerated dramatically with the dawn of the World Wide Web. Now, it's moving to new heights thanks to cloud computing. Because so much mission-critical activity is rapidly migrating to cloud computing, keeping it secure has itself become "mission critical."

Even more challenging is the increased reliance of individuals on the Internet, which is driven by innumerable benefits. Our dependence involves everything from social networking and messaging to online banking, travel, entertainment, and stock brokerage services...

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