Online Cyber Attacks are a Growing Threat to American Businesses

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Online Cyber Attacks are a Growing Threat to American Businesses

Movies like Live Free or Die Hard 3 have the tendency of portraying cyber attacks as nationally threatening terrorisms that could quite easily compromise the security of an entire nation. These depictions tend to be a little dramatic, with fired FBI agents and super computer hackers running the antagonist incentive: but they don’t necessarily overplay the ubiquitous threat of online hacking and identity theft. Does this really happen in Bryan College Station too?

A company called “LinkedIn” found itself as one of the more recent prime examples of the threat of cyber attacks and the consequences that generally follow. An attack on their system resulted in the leaking of passwords for over 6.5 million users. So discreet and advanced was the attack that hours after the allege assault that LinkedIn tweeted how their “team continues to investigate, but at this time we’re unable to confirm that any security breach has occurred.” The breach had occurred, and the attack had compromised the security and privacy of 6.5 million LinkedIn users.

In the weeks to come, LinkedIn was criticized for their “bare minimum” cyber security. Many blamed the success of the attack on the carelessness of management, having not “salted” and “hashed” their passwords. Weeks later they would become involved in a $5 million lawsuit for breaking their privacy policy and failing to follow standard internet protocols.

But was the failure of LinkedIn’s cyber security really the result of negligence? According to Carsten Casper, the reality of cyber security is that “breaches happen.” Quoted in an article by Kelly Liyakasa, Casper claims that “those pointing the fingers might be the next one suffering from one.” This might be an unfortunate truth, but other experts claim that there are measures that companies can take to safeguard their online customer information.

Not only are they measures companies can take, but they are measures companies should take. Ignoring moral obligation to a company’s customers, businesses without proper cyber security are risking the loss of millions of dollars. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is one governmental force working to make sure of this. In fact, in a suit against Wyndham Worldwide, the FTC filed a total suit of $10.6 million against the hospitality giant for leaking over 600,000 consumer account numbers to a domain in Russia. Talk about a steep penalty.

Beyond the threat of governmental regulation, there are the actual hackers to worry about. The FTC reported in 2011 that identity theft and other online scams had cost American’s $1.2 billion over the course of the entire year. And despite claims that technological security is enhancing as technology develops, statistics show that cyber threats are on the rise. Numbers of reported attacks from 2006 have more than doubled to date, and are showing no sign of subsiding.

According to a former operating system security expert for Apple, Jon Callas, “the major problem we’re dealing with is a culmination of net globalization and there being real money on the net.” Basically, the very nature of the internet is calling for such threats, and as the internet grows, and the amount of money flow through various online channels expands proportionately, hackers will continue to make their quick buck.

An interesting element of the attacks on cyber security networks is their foreign appeal. Callas concedes that “if you’re a bright person living in a part of the world where $1,000 is a lot of money… the temptation is very high and the risk is relatively small.” But authorities are determined to eliminate what they can control: starting with hackers working within the United States. This is primarily done through deterrence: increasing vigilance and reducing leniency. But it also helps to simply spread awareness of the basic threat of cyber attacks, and how they can weaken one’s company.

There is no set software to defend a company against online assaults. The evolving nature of technology assures that the newest program is always out of date. And while companies like Visa and American Express work to create a standardized security, experts like Paul Stephens argue that “standards are not high enough and there’s not a requirement for there to be an audit depending on the size of the business.”

However, with governmental research and support, companies are finding it affordable and financially preferable to maintain an evolving system of security to keep hackers out. Some private corporations, like the non-profit Online Trust Alliance, are providing their own incentives for companies. The Online Trust Alliance, for instance, ranks businesses by their online security and awards the top systems an “Honor Roll” to ensure customers of their safety and privacy.

The best and most secure companies will always maintain a costly, effective cyber security that constantly evolves. But that is not to say there aren’t certain measures that all companies should take for basic safety. Callas, again, claims that “ironically, the best ways to manage your customer’s privacy is to figure out what data doesn’t need to be stored.” By merely eliminating the amount of data on systems like social media sites, businesses can reduce the threat of hacking.

The most important aspect for businesses to take away, however, is a heightened awareness of the threats out there. Cyber attacks are a real thing: more real than Bruce Willis’ antagonists. And by understanding the reality of the threat, rational businesses will have already taken the first step to a heightened online security.

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