The beginning of the 21st century is undeniably a time of rapid development of technology. According to Moore’s law, every two years the number of transistors in dense integrated circuits doubles meaning that the we are getting more and more computing power at a very quick pace. Here, it needs to be mentioned that this rate of computing evolution is beginning to slow-down. Regardless, the integration of technology in our everyday lives is not going away anytime soon. Nowadays, it is very difficult to imagine living without a smartphone, a laptop, a desktop compute, a TV or some other form of technology that seems to have become a mandatory aspect of a person’s daily experience. Indeed, technology is now an integral part of our everyday routines and for a good reason. Tech makes life easier, more entertaining and more productive (provided that one knows how to utilize what they are given). That’s all good right? Well, there is a downside to everything and 21st century’s tech is certainly no exception to that rule. Our over-dependence on technology might actually do us more harm than good and there are certain very realistic ways this could happen…
Cybersecurity is a term used to refer to all forms of protection of computer systems from illegal interference, digital theft, damage to the hardware or software components or any other kind of disruption of the functions that the computer is supposed to execute. As we already mentioned and as you surely know for yourself, or connection to technology is currently very strong and we are heavily reliant on our gadgets and devices on a global scale. The smarter and more advanced those devices become, the more useful they get but also, the need for their protection increases drastically as well. This leads us to the problem we are going to be focusing in this article – the importance of sufficient cybersecurity and its obvious lack in almost every aspect and area of technology.
The current state of cybersecurity
With the advancement and the Integration of the Internet, it has become much easier for virtual criminals to hack into one’s device and carry out all sorts of malicious tasks in order to reach a certain goal. Most of the time such a goal would be, as you might have guessed, quick financial profit with minimum risk of getting caught for the cybercrime. Ten years ago, hackers would mostly target computers and laptops but now, with the increasing number of smart-technologies such as smartphones, tablets, phablets or even home-related smart-tech, the opportunity for technological havoc has increased drastically. The current state of things is basically this: the speed at which technology’s advancements and integration happens is much greater than the speed of improving the protection procedures and cybersecurity of the said technology. This leads to a very serious issue which, unfortunately, few are willing to address and pay attention.
Each year, the number and the seriousness of hacker attacks increases if some time ago most victims were regular users, today, more and more virtual criminals are turning their eyes towards big targets such as large businesses, worldwide companies and even governments. According to a diagram from hackmageddon, in 2016 28% of the cyber-attack targets were industries and 21% were individual users. The implications of this tendency are rather dreadful and, as we said, too few are willing to put in the effort, time, and resources into ensuring that their computer/IoT network won’t get easily hacked.
Still, a positive tendency is present as well – though slowly, people are starting to realize the importance of having good virtual protection. Investments into cybersecurity have been increasing throughout the past few years but the bad news is that there are still too many businesses out there that have insufficient (if any) cyber protection leaving millions upon millions of devices open to direct malware attacks. The only ones who truly seem to have taken it upon themselves to fortify their virtual security are some big companies who would lose a lot if a hacker was able to infiltrate their networks (not that there’s a shortage of examples of this happening).
The thing about successful cyber attacks is that even if the whole network or individual system has been thoroughly secured, there is still one factor that hackers can always attempt to exploit which most usually ensures the success of the attack. This factor is none other than the individual user. It is much more difficult, skill-requiring and time-consuming for a hacker to create come up with a malware that can automatically infect a system leaving out the middleman. On the other hand, if the user makes a mistake, even the simplest or least advanced form of malware can cause some serious damage in the wrong hands. Unfortunately, many regular users and company employees tend to lack the knowledge or vigilance so as to avoid potential cyber attacks. This is also why malware infection methods such as malvertising and phishing are so commonly used by hackers – many would easily fall for those without even thinking about whether or not this pop-ups that offered a free iPhone or that sketchy banner who said you need a software update looked suspicious or questionable.
With that said, there is still an improvement – users, though slowly, are getting better educated on the Internet dangers out there and are starting to recognize the potential hazards before actually interacting with them. In fact, this has lead to some hackers trying to come up with new methods for malware distribution where the user interaction would be left out of the equation. Two prominent and recent examples are the WannaCry and NotPetya Ransowmare outbreaks which used a Microsoft vulnerability to automatically infect targeted machines instead of waiting for the user to make a mistake.
No one can say for sure what the future holds in terms of cybersecurity. Sadly, however, there are a lot of bleak possibilities and the fact that currently the overall levels of cybersecurity are almost entirely insufficient on a global scale doesn’t make things any better. There are numerous examples of what might happen if a skilled enough team of hackers manages to infiltrate an important computer or IoT network. For example, if a cyber terrorist manages to hack into the controls of an airline, they could easily misdirect the flying aircraft causing mass air collisions. Another possibility is if hackers infiltrate the systems of hospitals causing equipment malfunction leading to multiple casualties (in fact, there are already instances of Ransomware attacks on hospitals). Some more bizarre cases of malware attacks are also possible – one could hack and cause malfunction to devices such as home robots or even pacemakers! Furthermore, the more advanced the tech we use becomes and the more software we put into it, the more opportunities the hackers would have to exploit it. Therefore, high-level cybersecurity is an absolute must when looking towards our future or else, there could be a lot of grim and unforeseen consequences.