The Dangers Of Hacks And Cyber Attacks
We live in the High-Speed Information Age. Once upon a time the world had to wait until the evening news or the next day’s newspaper, delivered by bicycle, in order to find out what has been happening in the world just outside our reach. Most of us still remember those days — which are quickly fading out of our memory.
However, it is safe to say that our kids will not be able to believe that we had to once wait to learn news. They won’t understand how news could ever have not been instantaneously circulated as the events themselves transpired, as it does now. I myself cannot imagine going back to those days of olden. We have become impatient — when we want something we want to have it now, right now. Luckily, with services like Twitter, we can stay up-to-date at all times almost seemingly before the events themselves even occur. Of course this isn’t possible, but you catch my drift.
However, this constant flow of information straight in our direction does come with a price. Because we receive so much information at all times, we no longer bother to do any filtering. If we were to receive packets of info in smaller quantities, then we could check to see if the facts that we are being given coincide with the reality of things.
But we do not receive pieces of news at a slow pace — we are bombarded by information constantly. The best that we can do nowadays is find sources that we trust and cross our fingers in hopes that the information they are spewing has some substance and isn’t complete garbage. Yet even when we do find sources that we trust, they cannot be relied upon to give correct information 100% of the time. Because information flows so quickly and freely and because the entire world is literally connected via the Internet, hackers have found themselves in the midst of a playground with endless possibilities.
Why hackers do what they do depends on what they are doing. Many spread viruses that either erase entire systems or the files that they hold. Others break into systems undetected and alter files. Hackers will steal information and presumably sell it to a high bidder or keep it for their own purposes. Tracking these hackers can prove to be very difficult in itself because hackers have a knack for misleading those that are trying to pinpoint their whereabouts.
They may be somewhere in the middle of Moldova, but make themselves seem as if they were hacking from your very own desktop. Organized crime has also taken to hacking, criminals coming to realize that they have a much better shot at making a fortune and getting away with it without literally having to get their hands dirty. Cyber espionage between nations also poses a huge threat to any country under attack and without the proper defenses.
Hacking poses a threat on all scales. Some of the smallest, simplest hacks can have a great impact. Take for example the Syrian Army’s hack on Associated Press’s Twitter account most recently. The hackers tweeted that the White House had been bombed and that President Obama had been injured. This, of course, had many people worried — but the hack was quickly found and the tweet was deleted.
So, no harm done? Well, not exactly. The Associated Press is a trusted company that many people rely on for information — information they believe to always be reliable. As soon as the word spread that the White House was bombed, which only took a matter of seconds, the Dow Jones plummeted 143 points. The market did recover shortly after, but nevertheless the impact that our high-speed information sharing can have on the physical world is impressive. Not to mention worrisome.
What you don’t hear about too often is that the government spends a good amount of their time keeping citizens ignorant to certain events. Many feel that this is unacceptable and that there ought to be full transparency. The problem is that sometimes spreading information only causes more damage. A rumor is what caused the Dow Jones to plunge, not factual events.
Causing panic by spreading false information is one of the most basic, yet surprisingly effective forms of hacking. In a way, it is cyber-terrorism. Thankfully, because information does flow as rapidly as it does, when a fallacy is spread, its correction and nullification will be circulated just as quickly. That is, until hackers figure out a way to cause panic and then to prevent circulation of the truth.
A more immediate threat to our security is now being dubbed cyber-warfare. President Obama not too long ago made a statement underlining the reality of the threat being posed by criminal organizations as well as government-funded hackers. The United States Air Force Academy is currently training cadets in cyber-war technologies, grooming a group of elite cyber warriors.
Cyber-warfare currently mainly consists mostly of informational espionage. However, it would be naïve to think that our enemies are not working on a way to attack our banking systems as well as our methods of communication. More and more things are becoming connected to some sort of network or another. If hackers were able to infiltrate these networks, then it may be possible for them not only to look through all the information available in the entire country, but able to shut us off.
No Internet, no cellphones and possibly no electricity altogether. All this seems like it’s coming straight from a Sci-fi flick, but the truth is that this is all becoming a possible reality.