The blessings of the digital age are bestowed upon millions of people worldwide, but not everything in the garden is rosy. Data security problems plague the digital landscape, revealing its fragile foundations. Digital hoodlums are deploying cloak and dagger tactics that are getting more and more sophisticated. These threats are raising many eyebrows daily and still, there are many misconceptions floating around. The notion that hackers cause most security breaches is a myth, the same as the hope that firewalls and data encryption make you safe.
Keys to the crypt
One of the most interesting cases involves the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, which had to pay thousands of dollars in ransom to the hacker who took control of their computer system. The scheme had a simple outline: The ransomware encrypted the files and demanded bitcoins in return for a decryption key. Its effectiveness is rooted in the notion that it is faster and cheaper to pay the ransom than to restore the system and its administrative functions.
The FBI took over the investigation, reminding that the Federal law requires hospitals to report such security breaches. Unfortunately, the use of weapons like ransomware is on the rise, and in the last five years, nearly 160 other institutions endured similar attacks. It seems that schools, health care providers and insurance companies are unfit to deal with this new menace. As a result, tons of personal data and records have been compromised, and good money ended up in the pockets of cyber criminals.
The big companies are not safe either. A bulk of them has a strong online presence, meaning they are prone to data breaches by default. However, security issues are more complex than that. Take the example of the corporate giant Apple, which rejected the demands from FBI to hack an iPhone. The company argued that outdated laws are imposing an unreasonable burden. Moreover, it claimed that The All Writs Act does not even authorize courts to order that kind of assistance to the government agencies.
Even the First and the Fifth Amendment were evoked, reminding us of one extraordinary thing: The code has been recognized as a form of speech. Apple pulled one last ace up its sleeve, pointing out that to adhere to FBI is to undermine the security of millions of customers worldwide. Yet, it was all in vain as the court ordered Apple to assist in hacking. The government has also made it clear that the company should write a new software tool without some vital security functions.
This example demonstrates that the cyber war is waged on many fronts, and that it is not easy to tell a friend from a foe. An FBI could, for example, mount a brute force attack to crack the password of any iPhone device, retrieving encrypted data. This is a slippery slope that could lead to more intrusive government surveillance. In fact, similar tactics were used in 2008, when Yahoo had to fight the court order to provide the information under the NSA’s notorious PRISM program.
Hence, security measures often fall on the shoulders of the users. The good news is that there are many things one can do in terms of protections. People must get into strong passwords and research service providers before laying trust in them. Encryption software solutions are becoming increasingly popular, as well as remote support software. The latter enables users to stay in control wherever they are and resolve problems on the go. These kinds of platforms are a step in the right direction, and are changing the way people approach security problems.
Safety not guaranteed
In the complex computing environment, data security risks are numerous and security threats versatile. Legions of hackers and hordes of malware are not the only culprits, though. The security is jeopardized by those who are supposed to protect us, and lawmakers and the public are still wrestling with this hot topic. The last bastion of safety is built on a level of the individual. When treading the digital avenues, the caution is always prescribed and safety never taken for granted.