New Threats to be Addressed

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has proclaimed October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month, an effort to help individuals recognize and protect themselves from cyber risks. The ubiquity of the Internet makes this a whole new area of crime to address in society.

Certainly, cyber criminals seek to steal people’s valuable personal information, like bank account numbers, for stealing their money. But these criminals are also out to steal other sensitive information kept in electronic mediums that can affects entities on a larger scale, like companies, or governments.

Toward the end of September, US President Obama and China President Xi met, and one of the big topics of their discussion was on fighting cybercrime. The US has accused China of cyber-theft, stealing business information and personal records from the US Office of Personnel Management.

In a press conference after their talks, President Obama indicated that cyber crime is a “global” issue, and “the rules in this area are not well-developed”, so it will take more effort “to start developing an architecture to govern behavior in cyberspace that is enforceable and clear” (The White House).

There was also the recent news story that a teen hacked the e-mail communications of CIA director John Brennan. The teen used “social engineering” to get a password for accessing Brennan’s non-government e-mail account, and then leaked documents with sensitive information. Analysts make it clear that Brennan wasn’t being as careful as he could, and even high-ranking officials aren’t immune from cyber threats.

There are even more grave implications with cyber threats, beyond people’s personal information being accessed. Recently a NOVA program called CyberWar Threat aired that discusses how people can develop computer programs that take over the operations of utilities and factories among other things, causing immense devastation in society by shuttering these vital services controlled by computers. Terrorists are no longer limited to physical weapons as they could, for example, use computer technology to attack computers that control the power grid, and shut down electricity to major population centers. That’s why the National Security Agency is now shifting so much focus to intercepting those who seek to attack computer systems.

The rise of the Internet has also led to the whole new form of aggressive behavior of cyberbullying, which has devasting effects in a more personal and emotional way. An article in The Guardian says a study of teens in several countries found that more than half of them found cyberbullying a worse problem than face-to-face bullying. And one in five teens has experience cyberbullying, which has led to thoughts of suicide, skipping school, and shuttering social media accounts.

Andrew Dunnett, the director of the Vodafone Foundation, was quoted in the article, saying, “The new generation that was born digital thrives in a world of constant connectivity, but there are clear risks for young people as well as benefits — and it is striking that cyberbullying troubles many young people more than drug abuse” (Elgot).

That quotation is very insightful, because it’s clear that the rise of the Internet has brought society many benefits, but there are also threats we must address. As we continue relying on the Internet for services, we must educate ourselves in using the technology responsibly and keeping our Internet selves safe from those who attack.

References (in order as they appear in this piece)

IEMA. (2015.) October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month Governor Rauner issues proclamation encouraging Illinoisans to stay safe when online. Illinois Government News Network. Retrieved from http://www3.illinois.gov/PressReleases/PressReleasesListShow.cfm?RecNum=13355

Jackson, D. (2015.) Obama, Xi vow cooperation on climate, cyber issues. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/09/25/obama-xi-jinping-china-state-visit-cybersecurity-white-house/72789436/

The White House. (2015.) Remarks by President Obama and President Xi of the People’s Republic of China in Joint Press Conference. The White House Office of the Press Secretary. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/25/remarks-president-obama-and-president-xi-peoples-republic-china-joint

Reinl, J. (2015.) CIA director hack by teen spotlights US cyber-frailty. Al Jazeera. Retrieved from http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2015/10/cia-director-hack-teen-spotlights-cyber-frailty-151024123451489.html

PBS NOVA. (2015.) CyberWar Threat. NOVA. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/military/cyberwar-threat.html

Elgot, J. (2015.) One in five young people has suffered online abuse, study finds. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/sep/22/cyberbullying-teenagers-worse-than-drug-abuse-says-report