While digitisation has brought plenty of conveniences to our lives, it has also introduced plenty of risks. The rise of cyber attacks is one of the more pressing issues when it comes to digital information.
A cyber attack is an attempt to break into a system to steal, expose, erase or alter data. In some cases, it also used to control a particular network or restrict individuals from accessing certain information. The targets of cyber criminals include individuals, businesses and government bodies.
Due to the rapid changes in information technology, new methods of attack are constantly being developed. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to develop defensive measures to ensure the security of our personal data.
In Australia, there is a growing demand for cyber security specialists. For example, in Victoria, cyber security courses are offered as part of the ‘Free TAFE’ initiative. This aims to encourage students to pursue a career in cyber security and help protect the information that belongs to Australian citizens and businesses.
To help you understand the importance of cyber security, we’re going to take a look at the different ways cyber attacks can cause harm.
It affects a large number of people
What’s more pressing are the attempts to use cyber attacks to influence nation-wide elections. Government-related cyber attacks range from spreading misinformation, creating false voter profiles or preventing officials from accessing certain databases.
While there have been no reports of major changes in election results due to cyber attacks, it is still a growing concern. As digital information becomes an integral part of government processes, events like elections and referendums can become even more of a target for cyber criminals. If a cyber attack is successful in interfering with these government matters, it could affect an entire population. It could create a domino effect that involves leadership and policy changes.
It can damage big and small businesses
If big tech giants like Amazon and Facebook can be affected by cyber attacks, imagine the vulnerability that smaller businesses feel. If a business falls victim to a cyber attack, it could affect the livelihood of all employees. Even if a company doesn’t completely shut down, cyberattacks could still do significant financial or reputational damage that they may not be able to recover from.
Just this year, there were reports from the Daily Mail that 26 million passwords were stolen from Amazon, Facebook and Apple accounts. Not only do these types of incidents cause consumers to lose trust in companies, it also forces said companies into taking expensive remedial actions. For example, when Equifax experienced a cyber attack, it reportedly cost them US$439 million to recover the stolen data.
Cyber criminals also targets individuals
Even if you’re not an executive of a high-profile company, you can still get targeted by cyber criminals. For example, hackers can steal millions of passwords and logins, (including yours) and sell it to a third party. Additionally, identity theft can occur when cyber criminals get hold of your address, credit card number and other identifying data.
In recent years, due to the rise of streaming and content creation, many media influencers have also become targets of DDoS attacks and ‘swatting’. Distributed denial-of-service attack (or DDoS) is when a cyber criminal disrupts an individual’s access to a network (usually the internet).
Swatting, on the other hand, is not a cyberattack per se but is closely linked to stealing personal information. It is a harassment tactic where a cyber criminal obtains the address of an individual and calls a police force (usually a SWAT team in the US) to break into their home. This is done by providing the authorities with false incriminating information about the victim. Indeed, this can be a traumatic experience that may have a profound long-term effect on the victim’s mental health.
There will be new ways of attacking
It is almost a certainty that cyber attacks will evolve in the coming years. It’s likely that cyber criminals will develop new ways to harass individuals, organisations and governments.
This becomes more of a concern when you look at all the devices that are now connected to the internet in the average household. TVs, sound systems and even security cameras are often connected to one network. Even infrastructures like nuclear power plants are connected to large cyber networks nowadays.
Cyber criminals can cause a lot of physical, financial and reputational damage if they’re able to break into such systems. As a result, it’s necessary for cybersecurity measures to catch up to these developments.
If you want to contribute to Australia’s cybersecurity, please check your local TAFE providers for more information. Depending on your educational history and residency status you may be eligible for government subsidies. It’s more important now than ever to improve cyber security measures and protect Australia from the growing digital menace that are cyber attacks.