NST Leader: Stopping cyberattacks

The fear of being scammed online and cyberattacked is as real as you are reading this Leader.

Last year, 72 per cent of Malaysian organisations’ online data was breached and 2.5 million Malaysians’ personal data leaked onto the “dark web”. An eclectic black market of good and evil, the dark web is where whistleblowing and cryptocurrency trading mingle with firearms and drug trafficking, fraud and hedonism.

But the jargon phrasing “cyberattack”, that is online sabotage, theft and disruption to the rest of us, is an encrypted language of esoteric English.

Identity-based attacks and advanced persistent threats are two examples of mind benders that only geeks, nerds and cybersecurity consultants would appreciate. Even the noun “cyberattack” is cowing, more so for tech dummies.

In essence, the fiend spearheading a cyberattack is a malicious hacker skulking in some rogue nation or outfit, hammering away code on customised computing consoles to hack open seemingly secure data.

These “black hats” — their disreputable nom de plume — have a simple requirement: perpetually connected desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets or servers. That’s practically everyone on Earth. If you are their target, like certain governments, corporations, military arms and non-governmental organisations shielding prized blueprints, intelligence, scandalous secrets and tonnes of money, the pillage can be ruinous. Frightening? There’s more.

Then, there’s you and me and the fragile industrial security pledging to “protect” our data — bank accounts, social media images and videos, sensitive documents and the like, all ripe for digital plunder.

Security experts are warning of more rogue nation-sponsored cyberattacks. A favourite technique is ransomware: hackers seize control of corporate systems or private accounts, forever frozen until a hefty ransom is paid. Many capitulate as their operations are a matter of life and death.

It’s too easy: ransomware has reaped US$43 billion since 2013, with a gargantuan US$2.4 billion in 2021.

Then there’s identity theft: a digital doppelganger masquerading as you to deconstruct your reputation and wipe out your savings.

Obviously, cybersecurity needs to be strengthened to the point that it is “unbreakable”, which is either a truism or an illusion, depending on who you ask, the ethical hacker or dark web scoundrel. Unnerving reports of the oblivious being tricked right under their noses out of their funds while conversing with the scammers themselves are worrisome.

How can we maintain digital security when we go about our business online? Time and time again, the answer lies in ensuring greater self-awareness. Now say that again and repeat while you scrupulously heed the advice of the police and banks.

Otherwise, hope and pray that your digital footprint is protected by serious security measures. If that fails, the best way to protect your bank account is to hope that you are a tiny blip in the digital universe slipping under the black hats’ radar. But then, that would be delusional.

Source: NST Leader: Stopping cyberattacks – New Straits Times

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