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Saudi Arabian oil hack shows the importance of cyber security
During the last months of 2012, a cyber-virus named ‘Shamoon’ was used to attack the Saudi Arabian state-owned oil company, Aramco, with the aim of paralysing the world’s largest crude oil exporter. More than 30,000 company computers were targeted during the attacks using ‘spear-phishing’ tactics to try and breach Aramco’s firewall. The virus managed to destroy data and erase hard-drives on individual computers before it was stopped. But, if the hacks had succeeded in their overall goal, the world oil market and, as a result, world economies would have crippled under a domino effect.
This attack clearly shows the power that a cyber-threat yields and the unparalleled importance antivirus software has in national security. Cyber-attacks have the potential to act as extreme weapons of war alongside nuclear and chemical arms.
The US Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, is among many suggesting that the Aramco attack serves as evidence of a brewing global cyber war.
Mr Panetta said that this attack had “renewed concerns about still more destructive scenarios that could unfold” during a major speech last year. He asked people to “imagine the impact an attack like this would have on your company”.
This is a good point to consider. In the past year 76% of small businesses in the UK experienced a cyber-security breach. This huge percentage suggests that the majority of small businesses in the UK need to upgrade their security systems. For many small to medium businesses in the UK, a lack of financial and human resources make it difficult to acquire and manage numerous products to cover every possible hole in their firewall. However, online it’s possible to find high-grade products which offer a free trial to demonstrate the benefits of their product.
If a hacker attempted to infiltrate your business database, would you have the software in place to protect your tablet, computer, mobile and any other web accessible devices you use? If not, then you could be an easy target for cyber criminals.
“To have your intellectual property vulnerable to a cyber-attack can be much graver for a small business than for a large one that has many lines of business,” said the Cabinet Office’s parliamentary secretary, Chloe Smith.
As part of the 2010 strategic defence and security review, the UK government rated cyber-security as a tier 1 threat and is implementing and investing in programmes to keep the country safe on an individual, business and government level.
This spring the Cabinet Office is launching a major cyber awareness campaign aimed at improving business and public understanding of the risk cyber-crime poses.
“We need to crack this problem. It is possible to talk about being well prepared for incidents, for being well skilled across society and for government and industry and academia working together to take it seriously,” said Smith.
The Cabinet Office is heavily aiming its message at school children and reckless internet users (mainly men) who are either not aware of the dangers or have a lax attitude to posting details online. The campaign doesn’t intend to put people off using the internet, rather educate them on safe internet practices. Seeing as internet use starts when a child is in school, it’s only right that safe browsing lessons should be taught then too.
The government is currently running two other initiatives targeting smarter internet use. The first is titled Get Safe Online and is an online resource of facts and easy-to-understand information on cyber safety. The second is the Cyber Security Challenge which is an education based competition aiming to find the brightest cyber security talents in the country and inspiring them to start a career in the field.
A senior government official recently said “The big goal for the next 12 months is to get somewhere transformative in terms of business and public understanding of the issue.” The best way to tackle the issue begins with getting people to acknowledge the importance of having sufficient methods of protection.