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The Rise of the Cyber Cold War – Keep Up With The Web – Sherryl Perry
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While many are busy protecting their free speech rights over the Internet, others are more concerned for their online safety. The number of cyber attacks is rising fast, and we’re finding ourselves in the midst of a Cyber Cold War–or better yet, a Code War. But what is a cyber attack and how do you know when you’re a victim?

 

What is a cyber attack?

A cyber attack is an electronic assault on a system, service, or resource that results in the compromise of the integrity, security, or sensitive information of that system, service, or resource. Electronic assaults come in many forms. The various types of cyber attacks include:

  • Website vandalism
  • Identity theft
  • Intellectual property (IP) theft
  • Personal attacks against consumers on home computers
  • Attacks on private businesses and government agencies
  • Security breaches, unauthorized access, and system infiltration
  • Spreading viruses, spyware, and malware to obtain access to networks and systems
  • Phishing, vishing, and smishing for sensitive information like passwords or account numbers

Each year, the United States loses $300 billion to corporate cyber attacks–including putting millions of online banking users at risk. Among banks and financial institutions, hackers also target government and defense systems, state organizations, and corporations. Many believe that cyber threats will exceed the number of terrorist threats in the months to come.

How the U.S. Government Prevents Cyber Attacks

“Stopping terrorists is the number-one priority,” said FBI director Robert Mueller. “But down the road, the cyber-threat will be the number one threat to the country. I do not think today it is necessarily [the] number-one threat, but it will be tomorrow.”

As it stands now, 47 of the U.S. states have different requirements on reporting cyber attacks, and private sectors don’t even have to report them all. A wise decision would be for the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate to team up and pass a bill that requires all public and private sectors within U.S. states and territories to report all attacks and threats. This way, the FBI and other government agencies will know how to prevent the next attack from happening.

The United States is among those in the forefront of the Cyber Cold War, and the FBI continues to investigate every day. With 20 U.S. a    gencies working with the National Cyber Task Force, they are doing their best to defend the country.

Do you think other government agencies around the world could be doing more to prevent cyber attacks? What tips do you have to share with others on protecting business networks and preventing attacks?

Meghan Faye Wolff is the senior copywriter and marketing specialist for Instabill Corporation. Instabill offers online payment processing solutions for offshore and high risk merchants around the world. Meghan blogs about leading e-commerce and payment industry news.

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Published by Meghan Wolff

Meghan Faye Wolff is the senior copywriter and marketing specialist at Instabill—an international provider of merchant account services. Meghan writes website content and blog posts as well as manages the company's social media. For the latest e-commerce news, follow Instabill on Twitter @instabill_com.

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72 Comments

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  1. The gap between cyber security and that of threats and the potential of cyber attacks is therefore increasingly growing stronger.With poor systems to crack down on the criminals who are often a step ahead of enforcement agencies and legislature which is not fully enacted, criminals get the breathing space and unwarranted freedom to perpetrate all manner of malicious schemes

  2. $300 billion is A LOT! If this money is not lost because of terror attacks for just 5 years, the US deficit will be reduced TREMENDOUSLY. Cyber attacks are scary and annoying. Too many things can happen on the web, especially with your not seeing the person. I know people who are afraid of buying stuff online due to fear of identity theft and lost of personal information. It’s really scary. One click of a button and all of your info may get released and used by some criminals. People can steal your social security and use it to open tons of bank accounts and you will be the one ending up paying for all that debt. Cyberworld is interesting and dangerous at the same time. I highly agree that Senate and Congress should pass a bill requiring each and every state have a proper system of reporting cyber crime. Cyber crime is a serious crime, regardless of the fact that no real weapon is used. It should be treated with equal attention and awareness as one would treat a theft or murder.

    1. Carrie,
      What concerns me is when my credit card company notifies me that they’re issuing new cards because my account was “compromised”. This has happened twice to me in the last year. (It was the same company both times.) In both instances, the credit card company refused to release the name of the business where I had used my card. (I would never use a credit card at that store again.) The last time, they said that it was because it was an open investigation. I think as consumers, we have the right to know which companies are putting us at risk. So, I’m all for the Senate and Congress requiring the states to report cyber crime.

      1. Hello Sherryl,
        Thanks for your response!
        I am a bit confused as to what you mean by your card being “compromised”. From your reply I assume it has something to do with leak of personal information (I might be wrong). But I definitely agree that we as consumers have a right to know what goes on with our credit and debit cards. I think it’s highly irresponsible and frustrating for the credit card company not telling you what store puts you at risk. Instead of thinking how to make money, I think some credit companies these days need to take a break once and seriously start thinking and caring about their customers! That will build trust and I think people will like and go back to a company if it has a good customer service!

        1. One of the merchants that I used my credit card at had been hacked and the thieves had retrieved access to credit card information. I don’t know how much information was stolen. I could get very little information even though I contacted both my credit card company and the banking institution that they use. All they told us was that it had been “compromised” and they issued us another card. They assured me several times that I would not be responsible had any charges been made but they would not divulge exactly what information the thieves were able to retrieve.

          1. Hi Sherryl,
            I feel from what you have described the credit card company is trying to avoid the topic of “what has really happened”. It’s good that the company is not asking responsibility from the card user, however I really think that the card user has a right to know what really happened with their info. There should be a federal law requiring credit card companies releasing information to their customers if there is anything wrong happens to their cards.

            1. I agree with you completely Carrie. The credit card company seemed to be “passing the buck” so to speak. All I wanted to know was the name of the company that was compromised. I too believe that there should be a federal law requiring that the cred card companies release the information to their customers. It’s one thing for them to not volunteer the information but to deny my request should be unacceptable.

  3. Even with the many conspiracies going around, it should be remembered that it is the responsibility of individuals to protect their online businesses and interests. This is much so at this time when cyber attacks have become very rampant and perpetrators have become emboldened often gloating in their malicious actions.

    1. Great reminder George that we need to be responsible and take steps to protect our online businesses. This is a timely reminder because WordPress recently issued a new upgrade (from 3.3.2 to 3.4) and not everyone is updating their site in a timely matter. What happens when there is an upgrade to software (especially CMS software like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal), there is usually a list published identifying what security vulnerabilities have been patched. Unfortunately, that list can be a treasure trove of opportunities that can be exploited. So, it behooves all of us to protect ourselves.

      Thanks for taking the time to join in the conversation.

  4. When you are using a e-commerce website for payment process,then you should use a firewall on your pc.it’s protect your online detail from others.government doing a new ways to protect users from cyber attack.

  5. This is why a good firewall is important. You should also employ a comprehensive encryption technology for your database. With the rise of technology also comes another method for criminals to break into people’s privacy and property. Thank you this was a great read

  6. The problem is that launching a cyber attack is a few hundred times easier than preventing one. It’s nice to think that Sony, Valve, Google and all the other corporations that have been breached in the past couple of years are guilty of improper data protection, but the reality is that at this point there is very little you can do against cyber crime. Computers simply aren’t as secure as people would like them to be, and as hacking information becomes more widely spread I can’t see this trend being reversed any time soon.

    1. Hi Stefan,
      My biggest fear is the attacks on financial institutions and governments. It’s unsettling. As an individual, all I feel that all I can do personally is to take steps to protect my computer and any websites within my control. Although a lot of cyber crime attacks larger organizations, we’re still at risk. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

  7. Wow I didn’t know that the cyber attacks were such a problem. It sounds like they are just under terrorism. I will be more avid in my approach to taking care of cyber attackers.

    1. Elena,

      I’m glad I could help you realize the severity of cyber attacks. Do you take any precautions now to prevent anyone from hacking your blog?

  8. Hi Meghan,
    A few years ago my blog was attacked which shut down my business for over a MONTH. It was a nightmare. I could find no one local to extricate a malicious malaware virus from Latvia that had snaked its way into all of our online files. Even worse, it would attach itself to anyone who visited our site. Very fortunately, http://www.novirusthanks.org/ volunteered – yes, volunteered to fix it for us. I’ve given them free ad space on my blog ever since.

    1. Catherine,
      I had no idea that you had such a horrible experience. I had never heard of NoVirusThanks.org before. How did you find them?

      I’m on their site now and I’m very interested in trying some of their free downloads. Thanks so much for sharing this information with us.

    2. Catherine,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your business getting shut down! I’m even more sorry to hear about your absolutely dreadful experience. You were lucky to have found a company like NoVirusThanks.org to help you. Thanks for sharing your story and this great resource with us all!

  9. I’ve had my identity stolen online before it was a nightmare to get all my credit cards closed and the stolen money back. As far as sites go I haven’t had any hacked but with my bad luck it’s just a matter of time.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that Wendy. That is such a violation. For me, I think having my identity stolen would be a much worse experience than having one of my websites hacked. (Of course, if I had a high traffic eCommerce site, I might think differently but then again, I would take precautions and work with a company such as Instabill.)

    2. Hi Wendy,

      I believe identity theft is one of the worst things to happen to someone. A friend of mine had his identity stolen when he was a child. It ruined his credit before he could even drive. Not only that, but the thief was a criminal and made it seem as if my friend went to jail when he was only 11 years old. The things people do!

  10. Meghan,

    I know that cyber attacks is a problem.

    I have had my website hacked and had to spend time taking care of it.

    I guess that there will always be people out there that want to get something by taking advantage of someone else. These people that are behind the cyber attacks though are brilliant people and they could probably do so much better by using their skills in a constructive way instead of a destructive way.

    I really have no idea as to how to prevent cyber attacks. It seems to be a cat and mouse game. Protections are developed and then it is the hackers job to try to hack through the new protections.

    It is nice to keep up on what is currently happening. Thank you.

    Dee Ann Rice

    1. Dee Ann,
      I had a website hacked once myself. It was my own fault for not updating to the latest version of Joomla. It was a site that I was pretty much ignoring but I should have either updated it or taken it down. By not installing the latest security release, I left my site wide open to hackers who were exploiting a specific vulnerability. This causes a deeper issue because there is the potential of exposing other sites that are sharing the same hosting. Here’s a good article that Kimberly Castle wrote about security and cross contaminating websites: http://just-ask-kim.com/cross-contamination-via-sucuri/.

      1. Wow, Sherryl, I didn’t know you knew Joomla! Small world … I had a Joomla site hacked, too; probably due to the same vulnerability (and for the selfsame reasons) you referenced. Was your incident in 2009?

        Dee Ann, it’s a real bummer to have your site hacked. At least you were able to salvage your’s. In the case of the one I mentioned above, I didn’t have time or inclination to fix it. But I did have backups of the articles in case I ever want to use them again.

        1. Hi Vernessa, You program in Joomla too? Now that I’ve discovered WordPress, I’m not building sites in Joomla any more. I find WordPress so much simpler. I still have one client site left that I built in Joomla.

          I think that incident was in 2009. Thankfully, my website hosting vendor, Rochen, was able to restore a backup that was about 2 months old. It was not my proudest moment but a lesson learned.

    2. Dee Ann,

      There are so many people in this world who could use their brilliant minds for good, and it would make the world a much safer and peaceful place to live. But I think that world is a fantasy. Hopefully someday in our lifetime we’ll see the world become a much better place to live.

  11. Cyber Attacks are always one of the important issues which affect almost everyone !! And the shocking fact is that very few of us know about it!! The situation becomes more worst when the damage by the cyber attack gets in the form of financial or life threat!! Thanks for showing such important( actually extremely important) issue to everyone!!

    1. Adrian,
      Cyber attacks are so scary that I think some people choose to ignore it. It’s easy to feel helpless but there are steps that everyone can take to ensure our own safety. It’s good to build awareness of the problem too by sharing information. Thanks for taking the time to weigh in on this. I appreciate it.

    2. Adrian,

      I agree that everyone suffers from cyber attacks, even if they don’t realize it. Look at all of the spam on social media sites that try to infiltrate home computers for banking information or user names and passwords. That’s a form of a cyber attack too.

  12. I think that there aren’t any safe methods for protecting against cyber attacks. I mean, when the SOPA/PIPA act was announced, a group of hackers, called Anonymous, have attacked many federal sites and pages of big broadcasting companies, and their action was successful. They have also hacked the site of the FBI. Let me ask one question: if the FBI couldn’t protect the site, how could we manage that?

    1. Julie,

      You have a point. However, those big broadcasting companies and the FBI weren’t expecting or prepared for a cyber attack. That’s no excuse by any means, what happened is partially their fault for being unprepared, but now that they know what types of hacks to expect, they can better prepare themselves and educate others on how to prevent cyber attacks. If you give up hope now, then the hacktivists will have won before we even begin to fight back.

  13. Terrorism is everywhere even on the web. Because more and more organizations are relying on the Internet for crucial information, a growing number of cyber attackers are also on the loose. The United States has always been a target of these attacks because it is a highly developed country. I just hope the government will impose a stronger defense mechanism to fight this.

    1. Shyxter,

      I completely agree with your comment, and hope that the US government will think of a solution sooner rather than later before too many businesses have to suffer.

  14. Few years ago, cyber attacks are just happening on unsecure websites of private companies. But today, where there are a lot of people who knows how to manipulate how the Internet works, even huge government websites are being hacked.

    1. Blake,

      It’s not even just websites. I remember reading a news article about Anonymous hacking a phone call between the FBI and Scotland Yard.

  15. Cyber attack is very scary. When people are using more services like banking through internet, there should be more talks going on about this subject. Think of your bank’s website is taken by some evil minded technology expert…There should be more people working on Cyber safety and attack prevention.

    1. Bindhurani,

      Online banking used to be the innovative way of keeping track of your money, and now simply having a checking account is a scary thing. Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about a website getting hacked, and the attackers did it to prove the point that the website had poor security.

      It’s a sad world we live in when people infiltrate websites for the sheer enjoyment of proving that they can. When you add in innocent citizens hard-earned money being stolen, that makes the world an even sadder place.

  16. Meghan, I agree that it’s highly unlikely for the attacks to end soon because the laws formulated for the online media don’t address this kind of problems. I hope the government recognizes how much harm the online attackers are causing.

    1. Jian,

      There are governments who recognize the harm in cyber attacks, but this is a new(er) kind of warfare, so I can’t imagine the solution will come — especially when dealing with uncooperative governments that harbor the attackers.

  17. Hi Meghan,

    Pleased to meet you and now for the rant . . .

    I suspect some of the “government agencies around the world” are actually instigators of some of the cyber attacks democratic republics work to repel. When I see the prevalence of certain types of attacks consistently coming from certain IPs and domains, I am convinced that some of that is sanctioned, if not officially.

    Not every country places the same value upon individual rights or privacy. Without a doubt, if they do not aggressively protect their own citizens within their own borders, they are not likely to give two hoots for our’s. Just sayin’.

    Oh, and thanks for shining a light on the code war, Meghan.

    1. Hi Vernessa,

      It’s a pleasure to meet you, too!

      I think you’re 100% right when you said governments won’t care about other countries citizens if they don’t even care about their own. It makes me think of Africa and some Middle Eastern countries that house hundreds of fraudsters. The United States is far from perfect, but it’s certainly a much safer place to live.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us all!

      1. You raised an excellent point Vernessa. I appreciate your contribution. This is a great discussion and one I could not have started on my own. Meghan, Thanks for continuing to share information with us.

  18. Cyber cold war scares the hell out of me. This is exactly the reason why I don’t put a lot of personal information in my online accounts because I’ve heard several cases of hackers being able to get in and see personal messages and photos. My brother also had a poser in Facebook and what’s scary is that he added our relatives and friends. I hope all these would be stopped sooner or later.

    1. Jian,

      Your reaction to cyber warfare is exactly what the the attackers want. Keeping your personal information private is a good way of protecting yourself. As much as I disagree with cyber attacks on businesses, I can understand them much more than pretending to be someone you’re not on Facebook. The Internet is become a scary place, and I hope that someday the attacks will end too (although it’s highly unlikely).

    2. It’s sad Jian that we have to be so cautious. I feel badly for parents who are raising young children. I have friends who allowed their young daughter to have the master account on AOL. This was years ago but still I could not understand their reasoning. They were so proud that they trusted her. I think parents can trust their children while still safe guarding them. The Internet can be a scary place.

  19. For the sake of the Internet and all of the e-commerce merchants who rely on it to operate their businesses, I hope all governments can find a solution to lessen the number of cyber attacks too.

  20. Let’s hope that id any law will be accepted, then it won’t bring any disadvantages to ordinary Internet users)

    1. Melissa,

      With all of the other treaties, acts, and bills arising for anti-piracy, I would hope that a cyber security solution wouldn’t affect ordinary Internet users too. There are so many cyber battles happening all at once and it really makes me think about the evolution of human nature, power, and technology. There are so many good aspects, yet so many bad ones too.

  21. There will be times when people just copy your content and put that in their spam blogs and seeing those splogs rank high above your quality content is a real bad feeling and it has happened to us quite a few times ,but took them down by a DMCA notice.

    1. I’ve had my content stolen before too Bishwajeet. When cast in the light of this article and thinking about those individuals who have had their identity stolen, I feel that I’ve definitely fallen victim to the lesser of the two. This post puts it into perspective for me.

  22. Meghan, it’s a world wide problem that’s gigantic. And until all countries have the same regulation and really make an effort to stop cyber wars in all forms the problem will remain.

    The Israelis give hackers they catch the choice of going to jail or work for the authorities and it works very well for them. Seems like the FBI did the same thing with the LulzSec leader.

    Let’s face it hackers exist and it’s almost becoming a profession. So find ways of letting them use their skills for the good of the world. If not, they will continue to use them in destructive ways. Sometimes just for the satisfaction of causing havoc.

      1. I’m too young to remember this first-hand, but your blog post’s section about educating the public on cyber crime made me think of the duck and cover drills in schools during the Cold War. While knowing how to prevent an attack is important, I think it is equally important to have a set protocol for when an attack occurs.

  23. Every week it seems like I hear about some site or sites hacked. I don’t know if it is becoming more prevalent or the news media is just reporting on it more. I am guessing it is happening more often. It does make me wonder how much information is stolen that we don’t even know about. It is obviously becoming a problem that needs to be looked into. I have no idea what could be done. We could pass bills or laws, but it most likely wouldn’t stop individuals in other countries that have no laws or really don’t care or do anything about it.

    1. That’s a good point Ray. What we really need is a cohesive International effort to combat it. I believe some countries are more aggressive in their efforts to curb cyber terrorism.

      Catarina Alexon (she left a comment below yours) shared an article that she has written that you may find interesting. (I did.)

      1. I feel what you’re both saying is true, but to all forms of warfare. I’m sure that cyber attacks have been occurring for a long time (after all, how long has the Internet been around for now?), but now that we live in a world of technology, this type of attack is definitely becoming more rampant. With hacktivists groups like Anonymous and The Consortium, I think cyber crime is here to stay.

  24. I wondered why people do this weird stuff for the sake of themselves. I don’t think, they’re gonna be happy of doing such ridiculous things.
    As long as people don’t change the mentality that I need material things in order for me to be happy, there were no peace in this world. People are striving so hard to get wealth, power, beauty, knowledge in order to be happy. Looking for ones happiness, the result will be using someone, exploiting others for the benefit of their own. But because we are not matter, we cant find real satisfaction by acquiring such material opulence, power or whatsoever and we end up doing something again for some sense enjoyment and it may hurt the self and destroy the whole world. That’s so sad but that’s the reality in this world.

  25. I agree that this is something that should be considered. I have no idea what the implications would be to the private sector. Do you (or anyone else) know if a bill like this that has been discussed?

    1. Here’s another great article from Reuters about the International Cybercrime Reporting and Cooperation Act: http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/03/24/urnidgns002570f3005978d8852576ef0061d5ca-idUS190003768320100324

      From my understanding, it would make the United States the police of cyber crimes. I think this bill would be very helpful in cleaning up cyber crime that stems from areas of the world like Russia, where nothing is happening to prevent attacks.

  26. Thanks Meghan for bringing this to our attention.

    Just from the little I’ve seen lately about websites and blogs being compromised that’s enough to get a lot of us very upset. I just hate that this number continues to grow to the extent that they are claiming someday it will rank above terrorist attacks. How scary is that.

    All I know is I wish the government could get a better handle on this without invading people’s privacy. How that is suppose to be done is beyond me. I’ll leave that to the big boys to figure out. This is suppose to be their area of expertise.

      1. Hi Adrienne,

        It was my pleasure to share this article with you all. Another interesting article you can check out was written by Brian Krebs about the International Cybercrime Reporting and Cooperation Act, which is “a bill that would penalize foreign countries that fail to crack down on cyber criminals operating within their borders.” Here is a link to the article:

  27. Cyber Conflict is less painful than conflict, which is inevitable as long as mankind exists.”China is likely using its maturing computer network exploitation capability to support intelligence collection against the U.S. government and industry by conducting a long term, sophisticated, computer network exploitation campaign.”
    Thanks for this article; keep writing additional information about cyber crime…….:)

    1. Cyber crime is not a topic that I normally blog about. So, I was grateful to Meghan for writing this guest post. I know Meghan intends to weigh in on the comment section. So, I’m looking to gather more insight as this conversation develops. Thanks for taking the time to comment Aman.

      1. Every day I read articles about this company being attacked or that company being attacked. Cyber attacks are quickly becoming a common form of warfare, and I think every website that gives advice to businesses, especially online businesses, should acknowledge it’s dangers. Sherryl has a fantastic blog, and I’m so thrilled that she included my post on her site!

  28. You know, I am green thumb that usually worries about chemical terror attacks, but you are dead right! There is a rising need for our country to worry more about cyber attacks than ever before. I have no idea how 20 agencies can possibly stay on the same page with the work they are doing to protect us! Scary!

      1. As an e-commerce payment processor, we’re constantly concerned about the safety of our online merchants. We do a lot to help mitigate the risk of credit card fraud, but I think it’s important for all e-commerce merchants and those who work with them to find secure ways to prevent cyber attacks.