Cyber-attacks are more common, difficult to spot, and financially ruinous than ever. Entire systems are captured and held for untraceable crypto-currency ransoms. Personal information, sensitive financial data, and medical records are vulnerable. Some black hat hackers simply infect computers with viruses for meanness. Cyber-security expert and tech CEO, William Saito believes that investing in smart IT practices can give companies a competitive edge due to the pervasiveness of cyber-attacks.
The cost of cybercrime is predicted to exceed $6 trillion annually by 2021. That’s double the cost from 2016 and that was a bad year for internet security. Illegal cyber activities are expected to become more profitable than the global trade of all illicit drugs combined. Awareness is crucial to avoiding catastrophe.
Tactics Used in Cyber-attacks
Attacks are broken down into two categories: syntactic and semantic. Syntactic attacks deliver malicious software. Here are three common channels of syntactic attacks:
Virus malware piggybacks on email attachments or other files. When you download them, the activated virus replicates itself and infects your entire contact list.
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Worm malware is more sophisticated and doesn’t need help from other files to replicate. Worms are stand-alone programs that look for security failures in order to access targeted networks. Worms don’t necessarily corrupt files. Instead, they nibble away at bandwidth and cause websites to crash.
These are emails or other files that appear innocuous. They typically contain a link that, when clicked on, downloads malware. Semantic attacks, such as phishing or sending ransomware, are less about software and more about human behavior. Most times, hackers trick unsuspecting computer users into providing sensitive information or downloading harmful files. These files contain codes designed to steal information. The most common tactic is to send a phishing email. Phishing used to be fairly easy to spot. The sender invariably used poor grammar, made spelling errors, typed the text in all capital letters and punctuated with exclamation marks.
Most thieves are more sophisticated these days. A phishing email may convincingly look like communication from your bank. It will bear an expected logo and contain a professionally written message. The message will seem urgent. The email will probably ask you to click on a link and take action. Other hackers send personal messages that appear to be from a direct supervisor or the company CEO. Unwitting employees are tempted to click right away to find out if they’re getting a promotion or are next on the chopping block.
In either case, it’s a mistake to click on any link without first investigating it. If you hover your cursor over a link without clicking on it, you can see where it originates from. The web address will appear above the link or somewhere on your screen. If it’s phony, it will probably look like gobbledygook or contain an unfamiliar name. You’ll be able to tell at a glance that this is not from your boss or personal banker. Just delete the email and call the individual or entity if you’re unsure.
You’re also vulnerable to cyber-attack when you download apps, music, videos, or email files. Criminals are especially attracted to file-sharing services that trade in books, TV shows, movies, and video games. If you’re not aware of the risks, you may get a lot more than you bargained for when you download your favorite episodes of Cheers. If a malicious hacker has uploaded an infected file that appears to be the real thing, your computer will be infected as soon as you access it. If your computer gives you an urgent warning that the file source is suspect, take it seriously.
Whole sites, like the ones you regularly browse and spend money on, can be infected. Always check the web address. If it starts with https://, it is secure. Unsafe sites do not contain the S.
When ransomware is sent, a bit of code takes over individual computers or entire networks. The system is held hostage until a ransom is paid in digital money. Banks, corporations, and even government agencies around the world have been victims of ransomware.
Defending Against Cyber-attacks
Here are some ways to reduce your risk for cyber-attack:
- Raise awareness about cyber-security throughout your organization.
- Tighten your current security system according to software user guidelines.
- Keep your system updated with patches.
- Protect outbound data with egress filtering.
- Create and abide by password policies.
- Encrypt all data.
Intellectual leaders around the globe and across a wide range of industries are joining forces to protect the integrity and privacy of digital information.
William Saito, one of the pioneers of information security, disputes the notion that cyber-security is a problem for information technology departments. Education and awareness must seep through an organization’s entire business ecosystem. When it comes to security, any other entities a company interacts with, such as subsidiaries, vendors, law firms, and accounting firms, must remain on the same page.
Saito also urges international security firms, governments, and law enforcement agencies to collaborate and freely exchange information about the most current threats and ways to prevent them.
William Saito started on this path as a teenager in Los Angeles, his hometown. By the time he was in college, he had founded I/O Software. His authentication technology, including fingerprint recognition, was adopted by Sony, Microsoft, and dozens of other corporations. Microsoft bought Saito’s company in 2004.
Following the sale, Saito moved to Japan and invested in several startups. At the World Economic Forum in 2011, Saito was recognized as a Young Global Leader. He was soon drafted to provide IT support for the committee investigating the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. In setting up a secure network for the committee, William Saito became aware of the “woeful inadequacies of Japan’s information technology and cyber defenses.” It was then that he began focusing all his efforts on cyber-security.
William Saito has served as chief cyber-security adviser to Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, the Cabinet Office, and the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. In his latest venture, William Saito was a strategic adviser and part-time executive officer for Japan Airlines. William Saito continues to educate policymakers in high places on ways to ensure security while keeping technology user-friendly.
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