Over the past year the cases of major cybersecurity breaches have seemed to increase and it does not seem to be slowing down. Companies like Target, British Airways. Lenovo, Sony, the Internal Revenue Service, the US Postal Service, the US Government and now Ashley Madison have all felt the sting of hackers. The hits keep on coming but is this just the tip of the iceberg? Will the US experience an even larger cyber-attack soon? Thomas Lee of The Guardian seems too think exactly that and I completely agree with his assessment.
Technology moves at a rapid pace and that is a good thing for us the consumer. We walk around with more computing power in our pockets than we had in our desktops just ten years ago. While the country enjoys its yearly upgrade to the latest smartphone many companies and government agencies are still using old technology to sell you new technology. The US Navy is still using Windows XP to operate their ships out at sea as well as other critical systems.
Why? Likely these companies and government agencies are running software that is dependent on older operating systems and the amount of time and money to upgrade that software is massive. Companies are in the business of making money and sinking billions of dollars to basically upgrade infrastructure that isn’t to their liking. As far as the government agencies, the amount of tax dollars needed to upgrade would be equally high and it would take convincing Congress to invest dollars into such a project.
But is continuing to run antiquated software worth the cybersecurity risk? In my opinion, no. At some point sooner than later you have to bite the bullet and upgrade those systems and software. The long term damage far outweighs the short term cost. As Lee points out in his piece, companies like Target are sinking in millions of dollars into new technology that they expect to sell to the consumer (smart home tech) but they are doing little to invest in making sure to secure their systems from another potential cyber-attack. Perhaps it is time for consumer based technology to give way to a national push to increase cybersecurity in both the private and public sectors. A cyber-attack against a company or the US Government does not just affect those entities but it affects the entire country and on a larger scale the world.
By 2020 the US will be hit with an earthquake of a cyber-attack that will cripple banks, stock exchanges, power plants and communications, an executive from Hewlett-Packard predicted. Companies are nowhere near prepared for it. Neither are the Feds. And yet, instead of mobilising a national defence, we want a toaster that communicates with the washing machine over the internet.
We’re blinded by all the shiny things that we can’t see the forest for the trees and companies are blinded by the money we throw at those shiny things that they are ignoring it too. The hackers are out there and they are not stupid, they are working tirelessly to make their way in and around massive computer systems that house billions of personal details and financial data. It is just a matter of time that a group of them will launch something bigger than we have ever seen and we are just not ready for that. As Lee writes in The Gauardian, “But don’t count on companies or the Feds to prevent the Big One. Because they are just as lost as we are.”
A whopping 57% of chief executives have not been trained on what to do after a data breach, according to a report by HP. And more than 70% of executives think their companies only partially understand the risks. Buying antivirus software is one thing; deploying an effective strategy is quite another. However, companies don’t even want to admit they were hacked in the first place.
Both private sector business and the United States government need to sit down and take this situation more seriously, otherwise, we could have a fallout that could bring financial ruin to many.
What do you think about cybersecurity in the United States? Are companies prepared for a larger scale cyber-attack? Is the United States Government prepared for such an event? Let us know in the comments below or on Google+, Facebook and Twitter. And be sure to read Thomas Lee’s article over at The Guardian.