Hackers exploit economic downturn

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Recessions lead to an increase in traditional crime and that's likely to be the case in the virtual world. McAfee has recently reported that it expects hackers to exploit the economic downturn perhaps by hoodwinking the credulous as well as returning to 'old-school parasitic infectors' this time using USB sticks rather than floppies. The security firm also reckons that data theft and breaches from cybercrime may have cost enterprises US$1 trillion in losses and damage repairs last year. Its research among 800 CIOs revealed that the recession is likely to increase attacks and not just from the traditional, external criminal element.

42% of respondents think that displaced workers will present the greatest threat to sensitive information on the network. Those CIOs could have a point if more instances such as last months attack on former employer, mortgage firm Fannie Mae, by computer engineering contractor. The contractor was indicted on computer intrusion charges having been alleged to have changed computer settings without permission from his employer and hidden malware code in a server that was programmed to become active on 31 January. FBI agent Jessica Nye told the court that if this timebomb had gone off it would have reduced, if not shut down, operations at the firm. The contractor had been employed at the firm for three years and were it not for the chance discovery of the timebomb in late October by a Fannie Mae computer engineer five days after the contractor was laid off, the outcome could have been disastrous.

Organizations would be well-advised to look inwards in these trying times.

Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.