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Cybersecurity Weather Report

By   /  February 6, 2017  /  No Comments

Click to learn more about author David Schlesinger.

This will be brief, as befits a weather report. However, it will need to be a little bit more specific than the typical TV weathercast.

First, beware of growing internet storm clouds approaching. These storms are caused by the heating up of state-sponsored hacking groups. Many nations are realizing that their infrastructure is poorly protected, and are developing cyber organizations to protect it. This is more difficult than it seems, since most of the cyber infrastructure in place was written for closed, private, isolated data systems. The mad rush to connect everything to the Internet is heating up the threat profile drastically.

These gusty efforts are made increasingly stronger by the realization that the same cyber professionals used to protect a national infrastructure can easily be used to attack another nation’s cyber infrastructure. So the storms are competing with each other and there is major conflict, those outside could be caught up in the battling storm winds.

The long-term climate change in the kind of threats in the cyber-sphere is partly due to the rising amount of organized crime activity. The rising temperature of this threat is driven by increased use of the internet to perform all kinds of financial and business transactions, thus attracting criminals. There is also a robust darkweb market for both stolen data and hacker tools.

A hurricane of Phishing emails will sweep across the Internet on a regular basis, tempting trusting souls to download so-called documents, pictures and PDF files infected with malicious software. Worse, clicking on a link in an unexpected email may plunge your computer and network into a whirlpool of misery with probable loss of all your data and photographs.

People caught up in this rising trend would do well to use the umbrella of a VPN to communicate on the Internet when mobile, regardless of device. Expect continued severe precipitation from ideologically financed hacker groups. Many ideological, political, and financially motivated groups around the world are building greater capacity to inject ideologically slanted stories, tweets, Facebook rants, and urban myths into social networking, even fooling some legitimate news services.

Fake news is easily showered all over the internet and in the social networking world. It is believed that one-third of all Twitter accounts are paid propaganda, often generated by computers. Of historical note, the old Soviet government once had an entire directorate charged with the task of delivering false information. The Russian word for disinformation is “Dezinformatsiia.”

Disinformation differs from misinformation in that it is intentional and not accidentally wrong. Fooling the enemy with false information, by the way, is an old established military principle. This was praised highly in the book The Art of War by Sun Tzu written about 4,000 years ago. Great book! You don’t have to be a general to appreciate it.

Unfortunately, heavy showers of false news, if arriving in sufficient quantity, can flood the truth and become believed as fact. Thus, ideological disinformation squalls are making it much harder for the average person to discover the true state of affairs in many areas. Like rumors of witchcraft in medieval times, false claims and false counterclaims may be shared among groups of people in a circular manner that reinforces itself. The Salem Witch Trials come to mind. Monty Python’s Search for The Holy Grail film also comes to mind as well, but it is not relevant.

We advise listeners to this cyber weather report to consider staying close to their shelters of moral principles so as not to have their perspectives washed away by torrents of disinformation and ideological propaganda.

Overall, the internet weather for the foreseeable future is tempestuous, and may cut off a lot of the sunlight the internet promised to bring. Suitable protection includes strong firewalls, paid-up anti-malware software on all computers including Apple products, good local disk encryption, a personal VPN, reluctance to click on links in unexpected email, and frequent data backups stored away from the computers you are backing up.

Finally, to recap, the prediction of internet weather is stormy, with clouds of criminal attacks, and showers of political and ideological propaganda. Please remain close to your core moral principles and rational logic to protect yourself from the heavy rain of Dezinformatsiia.

The cyber weather report for 2017 is signing off for now. Stay tuned for our bulletin about the approaching tornado of Ransomware.

About the author

David Schlesinger, CISSP, brings 27 years of experience in information technology and data security management to data security. He is certified in cybersecurity and is a past president of the Phoenix ISSA, a security professional association.  David has authored two US Patents for data governance methods that use Metadata classifications to audit and automate user rights and regulatory compliance. His book on finding hidden security and governance gaps in an enterprise, The Hidden Corporation, is published by Technics Publications.

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