The Chernobyl nuclear power plant just dodged what could have been another major disaster, thanks to quick thinking scientists who manually overrode the computer systems.
But the cause of this close call was entirely different than the catastrophic accident in 1986. This time, it was a computer virus, in the second massive wave of powerful cyber attacks this summer.
It was far reaching, hitting Europe, Scandinavia, India, the US and beyond.
Among the targets were a Danish energy corporation, US pharmaceutical giant Merck, a Russian oil company, as well as shutting down Ukrainian government offices, subway turnstiles, and supermarket cashier machines.
Experts are saying that attacks like these not only affect companies of every size, but are occurring at increasing frequency.
Attacks such as ransomware and spyware are on the up tick, cautioned Robert Villanueva of Q6 Cyber, the Florida-based data security corporation. “It’s a multibillion dollar fraud industry enterprise.”
The result is that now, more than ever before, private, confidential and sensitive information can and will end up in the wrong hands.
“Businesses should be prepared for any breach. It’s not a matter of if it’s going to happen, but when,” he said.
That’s why every business should have preparedness and a security plan, Villanueva warned.
That includes a bi-annual penetration test – a simulated hack – to ensure proper computer network security, as well as keeping on top of computer updates.
Moreover, users need to be vigilant, such as being wary of malicious links, or double checking that an email that says it’s from a customer, really is.
Unfortunately, even though $84 billion is spent on cyber security around the world, according to management consulting firm Accenture, many companies are still leaving the door wide open for attack.
Last year IBM and Ponemon Institute surveyed 2,400 IT and security professionals, who revealed they did not have a cyber security plan for their organization. Two thirds conceded that their company would crumble if hacked.
Additionally, research from IBM and Ponemon Institute showed that a typical breach will cost a company more than $7.3 million this year, up from $5.8 million in 2014. Globally, nearly a half-billion dollars was lost in cyber attacks in 2016, according to business insurer Hiscox.
Most famously, Yahoo’s security breach was serious enough that it sold the company to Verizon at a $350 million discount.
“Large budgets and highly skilled employees can’t stop the problem,” lamented Ed Leavens, CEO of Datex Inc, the Ontario-based cyber security company.
The two typical “big bucket solutions” of alert monitoring – scanning who’s in the network – and perimeter protection, such as firewalls, can only do so much, he said. What some companies fail to realize, among many issues, is that allowing customer access to their network opens up holes in security.
What’s more, a single security breach could mean the end of a small business.
“The reason why Yahoo was able to still sell – it’s because they’re huge. SMBs are not,” he noted.
After an attack, “credit card issuers could determine the small business is too high of a risk, and insurance premiums could go up.” That’s not even mentioning private data of employees that could be compromised.
The only good news, it seems, is that the job market for cyber security professionals is in a boom, and it’s the hottest area of startups, with some $3.5 billion USD invested in more than four hundred deals last year.