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Cyber Threats: From Debate to Reality

Reviewing and revising your cybersecurity program is an essential part of keeping your organization secure.

Revisiting a GoAnywhere blog from 2010. Discover how the debate around cybersecurity and cyber threats has shifted in the last decade.

In June of 2010 National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast a debate by the public charity Intelligence Squared U.S. (IQ2US) entitled "The Cyber War Threat Has Been Grossly Exaggerated." The show, which uses the traditional Oxford-style debate in which one side proposes and the other side opposes a sharply-framed motion, questioned whether cyber threats of the day were overblown.

The broadcast pit two teams arguing the importance of cybersecurity against one another. Marc Rotenberg (executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center) and Bruce Schneier (a security technologist) questioned the seriousness of the threat and tried to cast suspicion on the CIA, claiming they want to spy on us, while Jonathan Zittrain (a Harvard Law School professor) and former U.S. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell rolled out the heavy security artillery, describing the threats and touting facts and figures.

Related Reading: The Cybersecurity Dangers of the Dark Web and How to Protect Your Organization

More than ten years later, the notion that cybersecurity measures stem from paranoia is laughable. We now know they come from well-reasoned, practical experience. In the last year alone, we’ve seen new high-water marks for numbers of records breached, data points stolen, and fines assessed for insufficient data security. While fears for personal data privacy and oversurveillance are alive and well, there is more than enough evidence to support the argument that cybersecurity is more important than ever before.

Ten years ago, when the iPad was newly released and Mark Zuckerberg was named Time’s Person of the Year, the amount of data collected and processed daily in the 2020s might have seemed unfathomable – and not worth the effort needed to expose it. Organizations are collecting and processing more data than ever before, which makes them lucrative targets for anyone interested in exploiting any cracks in their armor.

Cybersecurity: Where do Threats Come From?

The debate shed light on an unusual dichotomy in our public subconscious regarding cybersecurity at the time: as denizens of computer technology, we're as wary as Jason Bourne about where our cyber security threats are coming from.

Are they coming from real terrorists and enemy spies? Is there really some vast criminal conspiracy afloat? Or are these threats coming from the very ranks of government itself? Who do you really trust and why?

Over the intervening years, security researchers have found worrisome data: both internal and external actors are liable to expose your organization’s sensitive data. While many organizations fear the quintessential cyber-focused-terrorism cell Hollywood dreamt up, internal actors can let sensitive data slip both purposefully and inadvertently. Whether they’re nosy, accident-prone, or simply looking for an under-the-counter payday, your employees are just as likely to expose your data as a dedicated hacker.

Get the Guide: 6 Internal Users to Put on Your Security Watch List

Cyber Threats: The Origin of the Term

The term "cyber" is a subconscious mnemonic to the old Marvel Comics supervillain of the same name. In the comics, Cyber, alias Silas Burr, was an agent of the Pinkerton Detective Service before he turned into a criminal mastermind. Why wouldn't we be suspicious of government representatives telling us that we're engaged in a kind of comic book war?

Why wouldn't we be suspicious of government representatives telling us that we're engaged in a kind of comic book war?

The truth is that cybersecurity has morphed from an IT-focused area to core function of business. Every single member of your organization should be trained on the basics (i.e., phishing, password best practices, secure file sharing), while IT focuses on your cybersecurity policies.

How Data Security Threats Impact Everyday Organizations

But data security is obviously not an issue about comic book supervillains or government conspiracies. For example, in the same month that IQ2US aired their debate, many consumers received notices about a class action settlement. Countrywide Financial, the behemoth that sold mortgages during the real estate bubble and is now owned by Bank of America, had begun the process of contacting customers whose identities may have been stolen when their records were pilfered by an employee.

Related Reading: New Tech and New Hacks: How Are Cyber Risks Changing

No, it wasn't Jason Bourne or Silas Burr, but a former Countrywide senior financial advisor who wanted to sell the names, social security numbers, credit information, employment history, and other personal information of mortgage applicants. In fact, insiders are responsible for nearly 50 percent of all data loss according to Info Security.

The U.S. District Court's remedy in the settlement will be to require Countrywide to provide free credit monitoring of all those involved in the class action suite for a period of 2 years, along with a potential liability against Countrywide of up to $50,000 for each incident of identity theft.

This trend has only continued in recent years: businesses are shelling out millions in settlements, alongside compliance fines and fees to legal teams due to data breaches.

Download the Datasheet: CybersecuritySolutions for Business-Critical Operations

Think Like a Hacker to Defend Against One

Isn't it far past that organizations started getting serious about data encryption? While most take the threat seriously, they may not be using the tools they should be. Custom scripts, FTP, and unencrypted file transfer channels merely open you up to risk. Shouldn't we be stepping into this battlefield to fight back with secure, managed file transfer systems between our workstations and servers?

The cyber wars of comic books may populate our imagination, but our company's challenges are much more real. And if we're not mindful about using the right tools in our IT departments, we may all be faced with a customer base of angry Jason Bournes who have lost their identities through our security lapses. Discover key strategies you can implement today to reduce your risk of a data security incident with our guide Think Like a Hacker and Secure Your Data.

Get the Guide

(Listen to or watch the televised debate produced by Intelligence Squared U.S. (IQ2US), "The Cyber War Threat Has Been Grossly Exaggerated")

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