There’s a new type of war being waged in the metropolitan areas of the digital world. Just like the “war on terror,” this war is also composed of highly unpredictable attacks by an unseen and unknown enemy. These attacks are called “cyber attacks,” and they’re carried out not just by the traditional “bad guy,” but by anyone ambitious enough to learn how to get started in cyber crime.
Cyber attacks can be carried out in one of a few ways. The first is a DDOS attack. DDOS stands for Dynamic Denial-Of-Service. A DDOS attack is not an attack meant to damage the affected system, but to slow it down by increasing the strain put on the computer. It’s the digital equivalent of causing a scene to distract a store’s security while the perpetrator can scope out vulnerable areas for later entrance.
There have been a rash of DDOS attacks on American banks http://www.informationweek.com/security/attacks/fbi-briefs-bank-executives-on-ddos-attac/240154858 but they appear to have ceased for the time being. This could mean that a more vicious cyber attack could be in the works – one like the recent $45 million ATM heist http://www.theverge.com/2013/5/13/4326336/cyber-caper-behind-the-scenes-of-the-45-million-atm-heist in which cyber thieves made off with a record amount of cash through careful coordination between hackers and criminals in the physical world.
In addition to these private cyber attacks, countries may be starting to wage even colder wars in the world of cyberspace. There have been recent allegations that China and Russia have been stealing weapons and tech from the United States through cyber attacks, although this may just be the ritual stoking of the fire following even more news about cyber warfare from the Pentagon.
The Pentagon this week launched “Plan X,” which is a five-year cyber warfare research project. The goal of Plan X is to create technology that allows the military to fight cyber attacks in cyberspace under the command of generals and other non-technically-competent military personnel. The “Plan X app” is reported to be a large touch-screen table that commanders can interact with to send virtual warriors into cyber warfare. According to DARPA‘s website http://www.darpa.mil/Our_Work/I2O/Programs/Plan_X.aspx “Cyberspace is now recognized as a critical domain of operations by the U.S. military and its protection is a national security issue.”
So where does this leave the rest of us who aren’t multi-national banks, governments, huge businesses, or hackers? For the most part not much has changed – the threat is just growing stronger. That means it’s more important than ever to install and update your anti-virus software. If you don’t have one, download Microsoft Security Essentials. Hackers are able to pull off such large-scale attacks because they use computers infected with their viruses. If you don’t give them a foothold, there’s one less computer they can leverage for their nefarious purposes.