Good year/Bad year – Cyber security

By in IT & cyber security
On January 20, 2016

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In terms of cyber security, last year was a bad year for many companies and a worrying one for most others. 2015 saw a record number of security breaches and the exposure of millions of customer records and other sensitive data.

As we start 2016, few companies can claim to have had a good cyber security year.  Unless you include the hacking collectives that succeeded in infiltrating victims’ networks and walking away with a virtual sackload of lucrative data that is. Out of the mire, emerged a growing awareness of the need for organisations to take a far more robust and proactive stance on keeping their systems and information safe.

Bad year for…

Ashley Madison

No breach generated so many column inches, tweets and blog posts this year as July’s attack on Ashley Madison, the online hook-up service for would-be adulterers. The hackers managed to swipe details of the company’s entire 37 million users, plus company financial details. The hackers released the information the following month. Furthermore, it exposed the fact that most of the female users of the site were actually fake accounts. The CEO subsequently resigned, but the fallout continues.

Bad year for…

Talk Talk

In October, the telco fell victim to a breach that exposed 157,000 customers’ records, including the credit and debit card details of around 15,600. First they claimed the attack was likely the work of a highly sophisticated criminal hacking gang planning extortion. The company was further embarrassed when investigations led to the arrest of a 15-year-old schoolboy, followed by two 16-year-olds and one 20-year-old in England. Talk Talk saw a third wiped off its share price following the hack. While the company’s performance has recovered a little since, it also expects to incur one-off costs of up to £35m because of the breach.

Bad year for…

Chrysler

In July, the automobile maker was forced to recall 1.4 million Jeep Cherokee vehicles. Security researchers demonstrated it was possible to hack into the car’s control systems remotely by broadcasting special codes over DAB radio in its in-car entertainment system. It opened up the unsavoury prospect of terrorists taking remote control of people’s family cars. The fear was it could be used to cause the car to spin off the road or collide with one another like some hideous real-life version of Scalextric.

Bad year for…

V-Tech

Security breaches are even more scandalous when they involve children, so there were tears before bedtime at toy maker V-Tech. In November they discovered (ten days after it happened) that hackers had successfully stolen five million customers’ account details. Worse still, this included the personal profiles of the company’s (mainly pre-school) end users. These were reportedly posted online briefly before being removed. The aftermath is still unfolding. The company suspended its Learning Lodge kids’ app store at the end of November. A 21-year-old man from Berkshire has since been arrested in connection with the hack.

Bad year for…

The US Government

Despite all its tough talk on maintaining global security, the US Government didn’t fare very well when it came to ensuring the cyber security of some of its key divisions and agencies. At the IRS, an organised hacker gang stole 100,000 forms full of personal data that were later used to commit tax frauds. Far worse, though, was the breach of The Office of Personnel Management. This resulted in the loss of 21.5 million sensitive personal records, including detailed identifying information of all personnel – such as FBI and Department of Homeland Security personnel – with security clearance. The attack is thought to have been the work of Chinese state-sponsored hackers.

Good year for…

Universal Cable Productions

One of the few firms to have had a good year because of cyber security was television company Universal Cable Productions. It was responsible for the acclaimed series Mr Robot, which follows the story of an Anonymous-style ‘hacktivist’ group and its efforts to take down the giant EvilCorp. The series was widely acclaimed by critics and viewers for its plot, script, direction and acting, but also by computer security researchers for painting the most realistic picture of how hackers operate that’s ever been seen on our screens. That said, the real-life security shenanigans (only a fraction of which we’ve been able to cover here) were arguably even more dramatic.

So that was the year that was. What do you think 2016 has in store for the cyber security world?

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