The Recent Cyber Attack on Equifax
It was recently reported that between May and late July of 2017, hackers breached the cyber security of Equifax and gained access to the personal information of 143 million Americans as well as some Canadian consumers from the province of British Columbia. This was discovered in late July, but was not made public until early September. The hack is reported to have started with exploitation of a website application vulnerability.
The data accessed by the hackers included information as vital as home addresses, birth dates, and Social Security numbers, items that can easily be used in identity theft and other crimes. The hackers also gained access to the credit card numbers of 209,000 consumers, as well as 182,000 credit dispute documents. Drivers’ licenses were also assessed, yet the amount stolen has yet to be determined.
As can be expected, this hack has caused a great deal of concern and alarm. Equifax is one of United States’ largest credit reporting agencies and the theft of its consumer data has put millions of people at serious risk.
The Proliferation of Cyber Crime
Unfortunately, the Equifax situation is just one example of a growing number of cyber attacks. There are several reasons for this alarming trend. One simple yet critical factor in the increase in cybercrime is the growth and expansion of digital business around the world. The bigger digital business becomes, the more money there is to be made in cybercrime and the more opportunities there are for criminals to exploit.
It used to be thought that since mobile devices had a lower than 1% rate of infection, they were almost entirely safe. Unfortunately, it has more recently been established that attacks on mobile devices can lead to large breaches of organizations and businesses. As we all know, mobile devices become more pervasive every year, with increasingly more people using them for a host of different applications.
Another problem leading to increased opportunities for cyber criminals is the fact that there is often far too much of a lag in time between when a vulnerability appears in a system and when a patch to fix it is applied. This can be solved by having U.S. federal government and businesses to continue expanding the number of cyber crime analysis strategies to improve investigations, as well as having businesses to continue taking the necessary security precautions.
The growing trend of cyber criminals attacking improperly secured Wi-fi spots to steal people’s passwords and other important information is yet another factor.
Things to Think About
Most of us know that there have been an increasing number of cyber attacks on financial institutions, the government, and large retailers. Yet, rarely do we consider the reality that the problem is only going to get worse and expand into other areas in the future.
There were more than 77,000 cyber incidents affecting the U.S. government in 2015. The incidents included everything from security breaches to data thefts. In the future, there will likely be more attacks on critically important virtual and physical infrastructures. One example of this could be the power grid. Fortunately, the Pentagon has put in place a number of agencies that are instrumental in the integrity and safety of critical infrastructure. We can only hope that they will be enough.
It is expected that damages created by cyber crime will exceed $6 trillion by 2021. One significant factor in this is the increasing prevalence of malware. It is believed that 2014 saw the creation of around 317 million pieces of malware. More time, money, and energy need to be devoted to fighting the proliferation and effect of this type of malicious software.
Many of the conveniences and efficiencies we now take for granted depend on the storage of big data. While there are therefore many benefits to this storage, there’s no doubt that without a great deal of work and breach prevention, it can leave many people susceptible to having their information stolen. There are many challenge involved in ensuring the safe and secure storage of information. Companies and government agencies need to:
- Understand and embrace the different platforms, technology, and tools available for secure data storage and management
- Clean up data that comes in from different sources
- Build up a strong and secure relationship between technology and business
- Prioritize the hiring and retention of skilled staff
- Think about the ways that data can be utilized by different business units
- Create a well-developed strategy for data management
- Ensure the engagement of executive leadership and sponsorship
Equifax is a Lesson to Remember
The attack on Equifax and the theft of critical consumer data is something that we are unlikely to soon forget. It spotlights the frightening reality that millions of innocent people could have their identities and livelihoods compromised in the blink of an eye through identity theft and other cyber crimes. While it is extremely unfortunate that this breach happened, we should strive to use the Equifax breach to be better prepared in the future.
Author Bio: Ryan Ayers is a consultant with multiple industries including information technology, medical devices and logistics.