One year ago, a Middle Eastern oil and gas company endured the incapacitating Internet virus attack called Shamoon. A week passed before the 30,000 workstations at the M.E. oil and gas company were able to get back to business as usual. The U.S. Secretary of Defense at that time noted that this virus was the most devastating cyber attack ever used against a business. A few days later, the same type of virus attacked another Middle Eastern oil and gas company. Shamoon’s new increased scale and speed was a predictor of cyber warfare potential to strike against businesses, government, and other organizations online.
The balance between the joys and challenges of technological innovations and change is a conundrum. Innovations that increase the number of people who have connection to the Internet are the same innovations that increase the likelihood of critical data compromise. People and businesses take advantage of cloud computing and communications and mobility for ease of access and flexibility. Criminals take advantage for the same reasons. Huge amounts of hypersensitive data are available to trash and steal. While cloud computing and mobility can simplify and improve work and personal life, it also increases vulnerability to potential hacking, DDOS (distributed denial of service), and other types of destructive tools.
Security is a top priority for organizations who conduct business online, but there are even more challenges. According to a July 2013 Voltage Security research project, results show that 50 % of employees say they cannot get their jobs done because they cannot get to information they need. Even worse, 40 % of them admitted that they give up and lose sales. Another 46% say they avoid security controls to reach deadlines. In addition, according to a Ponemon Institute benchmark report, malicious and criminal Internet attacks cost about $157 per jeopardized data record. On the other hand, more than 66 % of security breaches occur because of system or employee errors. Threats do not only originate externally. Insiders can accidentally or purposely be responsible for the violations.
Insiders are bribed by competitors. In some cases, they are employees who are fired or left. They use the devices, technology, websites and applications that have not been condoned by the company. The employees rely on these tools to quickly get their work completed. The variety of tools that employees bring on their own, also known as “BYOD,” such as tablets and smart phones, technologies such as multiple mobile operating systems, websites such as consumer cloud storage services, and social networking applications may create openings for viruses, worms, denials of service attacks.
The Shammon virus attack in the 2012 oil and gas company malicious threat catastrophe uses a “wiper.” Its code enables it to automatically execute. It supersedes the real data on its victim’s computers with “garbage data.” It exploits and spreads via other hard drives on networks. The virus infects the system, compiles and erases a list of files from specific locations on the system, and then returns information about the files back to the original attacker. The virus’s final action overrides the master boot record of the system, so it cannot boot or reboot.
Dorothy Denning, an information security researcher and book publisher once said, “Cyber terrorism could also become more attractive as the real and virtual worlds become more closely coupled, with automobiles, appliances, and other devices attached to the Internet.”
The technologies that enable are matched with technologies that curb and technologies that hinder. The history of the Internet, hacking and innovation is proof. Technologies that can curb or block disaster include seamless integration of security measures into business processes, digital usage policies that make sense to the IT teams and those in other departments, and dedicated servers, virtual servers and shared hosting that are actually DDoS and virus protected.