Cyber security has to become a fundamental feature of modern life
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Cyber security has to become a fundamental feature of modern life

The last few months have been a rollercoaster ride for cyber security experts: first, allegations of hacking in the U.S. presidential elections became widespread. Intelligence agencies claimed that state-sponsored hacks from Russia influenced the election in the favour of its eventual winner, Republican nominee Donald Trump. At the same time, notorious whistleblower WikiLeaks released scores of private emails from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign that, some observers feel, painted her in a negative light.

This wild ride hasn’t subsided, with an alleged ‘leak’ from U.S. intelligence that Russia has co-opted President Trump with incriminating evidence of a sordid kind. However, there is a fairly widespread belief that this latest evidence is a hoax, perhaps perpetrated by the notorious web forum 4chan.

The allegations of state-sponsored hacking imply that it is a very real possibility – whatever the truth of the matter in last year’s presidential election may be. And the uncertainty that has accompanied the latest leaks about President Trump’s personal life also demonstrates that cyber security is an area where almost anything is believable: is any information safe?

Arun Vishwanath, associate professor in the department of communication at the State University of New York at Buffalo, recently tackled this subject in a piece for CNN. Describing ‘spear-phishing’, he wrote: “the hackers sent a legitimate looking email with hyperlinks or attachments that when clicked launched malware that opened a backdoor into the victim's computer or directed the victim to a fake web page that solicited login and password credentials.”

Citing an alarming number of high profile examples (such as the infamous Sony Pictures breach two years ago), Vishwanath warned that “worse is likely to come,” saying:

“The reality is that spear-phishing attacks are easy to craft and many users, even after being trained in spotting spear-phishing, continue to fall victim. A case in point was a simulated spear-phishing attack my research team recently conducted over three days in a large financial company whose chief technical officer opted to participate in our study. That simulated attack netted close to a 55% success rate (in which someone actually clicked on the "malicious" hyperlink in the email) within a few hours of the attack. Reminders sent on the next two days kept netting more victims, with the overall attack realizing close to an 80% victimization rate.”

There is no doubt, given the expert testimony above, that cyber security is an issue of paramount importance. The question remains: which tech company will jump in and provide the fix we need? 

Disclosure
Dominion invests in a number of cyber security companies through its Global Trends Ecommerce Fund.



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