Today’s Biggest Cybersecurity Issues

Today’s Biggest Cybersecurity Issues

Hotel chains, retail companies, government agencies, hospitals: All have been the victims of vicious cyber attacks targeting consumer credit cards, personal information and company or government data. The 2015 theft of 80 million Social Security records through a data breach of the health insurance company Anthem illustrates the damaging scale these attacks can reach today.

Companies Will Spend $1 Trillion from 2017 – 2021

Companies and consumers are way beyond knowing that pets’ names shouldn’t be used as passwords and that internet browsing isn’t always private. But major companies face threats of such sophistication and magnitude that a major research and market intelligence firm expects companies to spend $1 trillion dollars on cybersecurity in the next 5 years ― an industry that was estimated at just $3.5 billion in 2004 and $75 billion in 2015.

"This is a sign of the times and there’s no end in sight," says Steve Morgan, founder and editor-in-chief at Cybersecurity Ventures. "Incremental increases in cybersecurity spending are not enough. We expect businesses of all sizes and types, and governments globally, to double down on cyber protection."

Cybersecurity Issues and Challenges

Experts on cyber terrorism are especially concerned with cyber attacks that attempt to exploit the world’s rapidly expanding, super-fast computer networks; the vulnerability of ’the cloud,’ the explosion of smartphone transactions, and threats to connected networks of data.

'The Cloud' Stores Big Data

In the past, information on a single computer lived only on that computer. But now we all use ’the cloud,’ which means our information is stored on servers in massive server farms, which are prime targets for hacking. Storing data in the cloud makes it convenient for us to move from laptop to smartphone to tablet, for companies to complete business transactions, and take advantage of enhanced storage no matter the device. Unfortunately, it’s more convenient for cyber attackers as well. "Why would hackers go through the trouble of overcoming physical security when it's so much more lucrative to target cloud services and transactions?" says Rohit Gupta, CEO of cybersecurity firm Palerra.

Smarthphones are an Easy Target

You’ve seen those commercials where consumers pay for their coffee or groceries with their smartphone. Systems like Apple Pay or Google Wallet encourage you to enter account numbers and authorize the phone to release funds. That’s an attractive target for hackers, and once a hacker gains access to the phone, everything is available ― including email, documents, insider information and private contact lists. "Smartphones present the biggest risk category going forward," writes Harriet Taylor for CNBC. "They are particularly attractive to cyber criminals because of the sheer number in use and multiple vectors of attack, including malicious apps and web browsing."

Ransomware and Ghostware

One of the newer tools in a hacker’s toolbox: Ransomware is software that takes information hostage, blocking your computer ― or an entire network of computers ― until a ransom is paid. Another such tool, Ghostware, which also is called ’a rootkit,’ is software that has the ability to access a computer or computer network, hide itself while stealing data or loading malware, and then disappear without leaving tracks.

Sophisticated Phishing on the Rise

Phishing attacks are getting harder to recognize up front. They are masquerading as phony web sites, or messages that appear to be from trusted sources or official-looking emails on a letterhead that appears valid. If one employee at a company falls for such a ploy, the company’s entire system can become open to hacking.

Infrastructures are Vulnerable

Think of network and system infrastructure at the same time you think of bridges, railroad tracks, telecommunications, water companies, ATM networks and power grids ― all provide essential services, and when they get old or out of date, they can become unsafe. "The world is full of people with both the intent to harm the U.S. and the digital know-how to attack our country’s critical infrastructure," writes Tom Patterson for Government Technology magazine. "This will be a dangerous combination in 2016, and something we will start to address globally."

Companies are Still Behind the Curve

It can be daunting for any business, large or small, to battle the constantly evolving world of technology-based crime, and many companies know they aren’t keeping up. A February 2016 report in Fortune reported on a survey of 1,000 U.S. and European business executives in which 50 percent said they had no formal cybersecurity plan in place, and 25 percent said they felt their company would be attacked at some point in the future.

How to Prepare for the Issues of Cybersecurity

The need for people with a high level of education in cybersecurity issues is urgent, and a master’s degree will give you the expertise many companies are demanding right now. The University of Delaware’s online Master of Science in Cybersecurity produces cybersecurity professionals who can go beyond the limits of a typical IT department in designing and implementing solutions to today’s threats.

Learn more about the university that the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security have designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.

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