Everything that is created has a good side and a bad side to it and technology is no exception. When the internet was first created, many felt it would be beneficial since users would be able to find information easier and at a quicker speed while being able to communicate with others from around the world. However, the bad side to this momentous creation gave birth to a term that would impact society for decades to come, hacking.
When hackers first appeared on everyone’s radar, these individuals were focused on doing pranks and the thrill of getting into a computer system that a business would claim couldn’t be hacked. Today, hacking has become a lucrative business where a hacked system can be held for ransom or the focus is on attacking critical infrastructure such as targeting European and US power grids. Such hacking incidents are bad enough but a report from FireEye suggests things are about to get worse.
The report says a plant of an unmentioned location and nature was coerced to shut down after its industrial safety system was targeted by a hack; this is the first publicized event of a breach such as this happening and though clearly this digital assault was significant in and of itself, there has been suggestion that this incident might have been extremely worse. Before discussing further what exactly happened, it is important to look at how hackers have metamorphosed over the years and what new threats might come in 2018 and beyond.
How Hacking Has Changed Over the Years
When it comes to computing, a hacker is defined as any skilled expert in computers that uses their technical skills to solve a problem, however, the term today is associated with a security hacker, which is an individual who utilizes their technical skills to break into computer systems using bugs or exploits. Hackers had originally started out with an agenda of breaking into computer systems either to prove that it could be done or to spread mischief directed at those who seemed offensive in their eyes; however, an example that hacking was escalating occurred in 2008 with the criminal enterprise known as ‘Koobface’.
This was a criminal organization that cropped up in 2008 and had primarily targeted Facebook with the goal of gaining control of computer systems and user accounts for years. Other social networks were also targeted by using already compromised user accounts to prompt friends to install software to view a video. The result was the ability to display content that was advertising fraud on a small scale as well as to distribute malevolent software that included the Zeus trojans for theft of bank accounts. Finally, in January of 2012, security researchers for Facebook posted the five individual’s names who were the suspected ringleaders of the gang
Society has seen over the years more cyber attacks aimed at individuals, businesses, large corporations and even members of congress as well as government institutions; each assault becoming more destructive than the last. Then, in May of 2017, the world realized the full devastation that hackers could leash upon the world with the ‘WannaCry’ cyberattack.
This onslaught unleashed on computer systems was on a global scale that spread around the world costing billions of dollars; computers running Windows were the targets as hackers found a security flaw that they took advantage of. What happened was data on a user’s compromised system was encrypted and the only way to regain access was to pay a ransom in the form of bitcoin. Speculation on who was responsible was North Korea, but the White House has not said with certainty that they were the ones responsible; until now.
Announced in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Monday, White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert stated that North Korea was behind the destructive ‘WannaCry’ cyberattack back in May. This declaration shows the stakes have evolved when it comes to cyberattacks and the costs that are involved on a monetary level; however, latest news has shown once again that hacking continues to increase on the level of mayhem it can cause.
Malware Triton Causes Plant to Shut Down
While hacking primarily seemed to focus on ways to obtain money through compromised computer systems or user accounts, up-to-date news has shown how dangerous and deadly these cyberattacks can be and at the heart of this incident is a piece of malware nicknamed ‘Triton’. What happened was a hijacking of someone’s workstation using safety technology known as ‘Schneider Electric’s Triconex’ (commonly used in power plants) and the hacker hoped to alter controllers to pinpoint safety issues. Fortunately, the plant shut down as a response due to some controllers entered a failsafe state. This led operators to investigate and discovered the hostile code.
What is scary is that a report says the hack was consistent with a nation state preparing for an attack and that if those responsible can learn from their mistakes, the devastation that could be caused is at least to say is alarming. Hacking originally was an individual testing to see how secure computer systems really are and a way to spread mischief throughout the internet.
However, the metamorphosis of hackers over the years has shown how destructive they can be and as we head into 2018 and beyond, it is important to learn how to protect yourself as cyber attacks will continue to escalate as well as the damage they will cause.