Cybersecurity. Hackers. Ransomware. Stolen data.
We hear these terms everyday and yet most are blind to what they implicate. Blind to what these “hackers” have accomplished using their knowledge in this extremely diverse field known as Cyber-Security.
But what is it actually? As Google puts it, Cybersecurity is simply “the state of being protected against the criminal or unauthorized use of electronic data, or the measures taken to achieve this”. In layman’s terms, CyberSec is, in it’s base, the process of securing one’s data from others that do not have access to that particular data or files. There are various layers to this and it’s beyond the scope of this article to discuss all of them.
Why is Cybersecurity important? What is the purpose of understanding it, you may ask.
Imagine an instance where you run a multi-national company with thousands of employees. It will then be obvious that you must have a database with all these employees’ personal information like bank account details, for salary purposes. If this data is not secured, and is publicly available, what happens then? Surely, someone with malicious intent may access this data and use it for personal gain. So what can we do to stop them? That brings us back to Cybesecurity.
With the amount of important data stored on computers increasing by the hour, proficiency in understanding cyberattacks is not only advised, but necessary. In a report done by Cybersecurtiy Ventures, they project that the cost of dealing with cyberthreats will rise to 6 trillion USD annually by 2021, which includes damage and destruction of data, theft of intellectual property, theft of financial or personal data, forensic investigation and so on.
In today’s world, each and every company, major or minor, have once employed a “white-hat” hacker to penetration test, or pentest, their networks. These people are commonly referred to as ethical hackers. They are paid to hack said companies’ wireless networks and data, present an in-depth report on the vulnerabilities they used to access their files including solutions to each of those. The difference between this breed of hackers and the ones mentioned earlier is that the white-hats are given permission to do what they do. And that makes their practice legal and highly valued.
But sometimes, the white-hats cannot keep up with the “black-hats”, a term coined to recognize those who use their expertise in CyberSecurity for personal profits or gain. And the results of these instances are worldwide security threats. One of them is briefly discussed below.
On the 12th of May, 2017, over 300,000 systems across 150 countries were infected with the ransomware known as WannaCry. The worm used an exploit known as EternalBlue, present in older versions of the Windows operations system, used by over 1.25 billion users. The victim’s computers and data were locked by the worm, and a ransom was demanded by the creators, in order for it to unlocked. The payment was to be done by Bitcoin, and thus would be untrackable. Further spread of WannaCry was stopped by the white-hats, within few days of the outbreak, after they discovered a “kill-switch” hidden in it’s code. But billions of dollars worth of damage had already been done by then.
In conclusion, it is important to note that the significance of proper Cybersecurity has never been higher. We live in a world networked together in every way imaginable and each breach of security is to be addressed. Changing passwords once in a while, updating operating systems and using trustworthy third-party software may go a longer way than you might think.