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Cyber Security

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The startling cyber intrusion of Sony is rattling corporate America. It’s one thing to have the credit card accounts of 55 million customers hacked, it’s another to have salaries, strategy presentations and confidential communication between your top executives and Hollywood stars spilled all over the internet.

As I wrote in a ReadWrite article last year, World War III is already here — And we’re losing.

World War III is already here — And we’re losing.Michael Tchong
Think that’s an exaggeration? If indeed tiny North Korea is responsible for the Sony intrusion, just imagine what would happen if Russia or China would engage in that sort of cyber terrorism, if they already haven’t that is.

And the toll this warfare is exacting from society is truly stunning:

  • Security spending – Gartner expects worldwide information security spending to reach $71 billion in 2014, a 7.9% year-over-year increase. The researcher predicts security spending in 2015 will increase 8.2% to $77 billion.
  • Cyber attacks growth – The GAO reports that the number of cyber incidents affecting computer systems and networks continues to rise. Between 2006 and 2012, the number of cyber incidents reported by federal agencies to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) has grown 782% (PDF):

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  • Information security incidents – Meanwhile, the number of information security incidents involving personally identifiable information (PII) increased 244% (PDF), between 2009 and 2013. In the past year, 519 million financial records have been stolen, with nearly 439 million records stolen in the past six months alone, says the FBI.
  • Average loss – And financial losses are rising sharply too. According to PWC, the reported average financial loss from cybersecurity incidents was $2.7 million, a 34% year-over-year increase. The number of organizations that reported financial losses in excess of $20 million rose even faster at 92%.
  • Cross-organization cyberteams – Despite the surge in cyber attacks, fewer than half of companies, 49%, have a cross-organization team that regularly meets to discuss, coordinate and communicate information security issues.

Security software providers are starting to educate the market with storytelling videos, like this futuristic, branded message from Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab.

  • Passwords – That such formidable marketing organizations as Home Depot or Target did not take adequate security precautions leading to credit-card data theft, underscores the need for more education, starting at home. But here the picture is equally dire. A survey by Splashdata found that the two most popular passwords in 2013 were “123456” followed by “password.” It’s that kind of casual disregard that likely lead the Sony IT department to store all company passwords in an unprotected file, called Master_Password_Sheet.

Some industry watchers believe that the unprecedented nature of the Sony attack plus hundreds of millions of credit card hacks, will reinforce the mission-critical nature of cybersecurity.

The U.S. government realizes the urgency of cybersecurity. A bill expected to be voted on later this week will boost cybersecurity spending. The U.S. Cyber Command, which manages military cyberspace operations and ensures the security of Department of Defense information networks, would receive $447 million, more than double its 2013 funding of $191 million, while the Department of Energy (DOE) would get a notable cybersecurity bump, up $25 million from 2014 to $304 for fiscal 2015.

Venture capitalists have also gotten the message. In 2013, they invested $1.7 billion in cybersecurity companies, up 70% from the approximately $1 billion invested in 2011.

With the reputation of more blue-chip companies and Hollywood celebrities smeared all over the web, perhaps 2015 will indeed be the year that cybersecurity gets a big dose of positive reinforcement.

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