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Lets See How Hard They Fall

by: Bryon Turcotte  /  November 21, 2014

Lately, it seems like all I read about is one security breach on top of another. Lots of confident people pushing in the back doors of other confident people to steal all their stuff. I'm beginning to wonder if hackers, terrorists, and highly infectious diseases ceased to exist on the face of the earth – would anyone want to read the news?

When I was young, I conformed to the belief that if you were a large company or organization, it meant you were all-powerful – could not be touched – because you had all the money, all the resources, all the brains, and absolutely no vulnerabilities.

Maybe this way of thinking had its place in the past and was completely valid as the playing field of business was a completely different game, had different equipment and different motivations driving to a new level of success. I don't believe this way as an adult with a family and a whole lot to lose.

I now agree with that old saying that many parents used to build confidence in their child when it was possible that they may need to address a possible confrontation with a larger bully child at some point. We have all heard this saying at one time in our lives: "The bigger they are, the harder they fall."

I'm starting to think that many of the cyberbullies of today wear T-Shirts with this saying on the front and back. It seems that lately, the big ones are dropping like trees to a lumberman's ax.

Over the past two years, news about large data breaches seemed to be centralized to the retail world as we witnessed Target take a major hit to its database of clients, which scratched the surface of their personal and account information. If you thought about it a while, didn't it begin to make a little bit of sense? We have to admit to ourselves that we expected this considering the level of technology most cybercrooks play with each day and how smart they have become in a concise period of time.

In the past, when a giant department store would open in your town, didn't you assume that someday when the newness wore down, the store would end up being robbed, and some of that money they've earned would be taken? It was inevitable because it was a store managed and guarded against people from your own town – nobody specially trained or with specific government credentials – just people you may have gone to school with years earlier.

Criminals were always breaking into stores. It was widespread. Now, if someone were to say to you back then, "Hey, did you hear about that guy who robbed the White House? Yup, he just walked in through the back door and started pouring through their file cabinets." – I think you would not only be shocked but the first thing, "How could that even happen? It's the most secure place on the face of the planet…right?" Well, according to reports, the times are a-changing.

I read an article recently published by Computer World that prompted a lot of thought regarding this subject. Today the world's media is not interested in a heist inside one of our neighborhood department stores. There is juicier fruit to be had which hangs from a tree we thought was untouchable and too well protected.

According to the article, a report from the Georgia Institute of Technology concerning "_emerging cyber threats in 2015_" will be showing that the once untouchable giants we thought were so safe and concrete are the common target of the modern hacker. The article listed (the once believed untouchable) organizations, services, and agencies that have fallen victim to hacking attacks.

It amazed me to think that these – or what seemed to be – the rock-solid fortresses of our past, such as the United States Postal Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the White House, and the State Department, could also be so very vulnerable.

The GIT report stated that we should expect to hear much more about attacks like these in the future. Between the U.S. mail, the folks and systems who study our weather, and the communications between heads of state and political officials, we are now living in a world where everyone is fair game, and all data seems to have some value to someone. The symbolic small boy can take down the giant with a small stone because he knows exactly where to aim to gain the fatal blow.

The language we hear each day as we read the news contains words and phrases like "tighter security\, "_aggressive response_", and "_proactive protection_. "When any security is broken, it seems like the most common response is "_build the wall higher_, "_make the alarm louder_" or "_make the passwords harder_" but maybe it's time to regroup and think differently. Maybe instead of always building the wall "_higher_" we should be making it _higher, thicker, and of different materials_.

Have we moved too far into the room and got so extremely comfortable that we forgot how we first walked in? Maybe the public should be educated at a more realistic level and reminded how bad it could and will get if and when a group of hackers infiltrates a system that actually kicks the figurative legs out from under all of our lives. Like cancer, I don't believe cyber attackers and the attacks they launch care who we are or what ethnic or social-economic group sign we are holding as an identity.

Sometimes I find it very hard to understand the motivations behind the acts, and sometimes I see it very clearly. Their rewards have gotten bigger, and with sweet fruit, there always is a hunger felt by someone who wants and needs the taste. If lessons are not learned from the increased activity that is quickly becoming commonplace and taken seriously by everyone, it will not matter if you are the small boy or the giant – all will fall…and fall hard.

Written by Bryon Turcotte  /  November 21, 2014