Editorial The Web

Digital’s Dark Side: Preventing Cyber Crimes

Our digital age can be a double-edged sword. Technological innovations have given us the ability to make life easier, faster and more intuitive. However, at the rate we’re evolving, it’s difficult to keep our virtual selves safe as cyber criminals are advancing just as fast as our defence measures.

The Ashley Madison leak

A recent story in the media shows the serious consequences that cyber crime can have on society. This past July, a team of hackers known as ‘The Impact Group’ breached extramarital affair website Ashley Madison, publishing millions of user’s names, phone numbers, email addresses and credit card details for all to see.

For a site that frequently bragged about its impenetrable anonymity, it has been proven very wrong indeed. This leaked information has had (and continues to have) a serious ripple effect on society and the landscape of online business. Many marriages and families have been ruined, some have even been driven to suicide and online safety has been entirely jeopardised.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident; it just happens to be a very public one. A press release issued recently by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport revealed that 74 per cent of small businesses, and 90 per cent of major businesses, have had a cyber breach of security in the last year.

Education, ‘cyber situational awareness’ and Digital Shadows

So what’s being done to try and stem the flood of cyber crimes? It begins with learning about the scope of cyber crime and potential areas of vulnerability.

Organisations, companies and individuals need better ‘cyber situational awareness’ – an enhanced understanding of exactly where your information could end up online. London startup Digital Shadows uses data and security analysis to provide an ‘attacker’s eye view’ of your business, identifying and monitoring any potential threats, confidential data loss or jeopardised brand integrity.

In an article for fintech magazine FusionWire (powered by Misys), Digital Shadows co-founder James Chappell say: ‘We can help customers work out, first, whether information should be out there in the first place. If it’s not, we can help them to work out how it got there, and how they can tidy it up….For example, if you’re a retail bank, you may find that lots of your credit card numbers are showing up in forums where criminals collaborate. We can tell you where that information is showing up, and how prevalent that is.’ (For a more detailed explanation of ‘cyber situational awareness’ and exactly how Digital Shadows work, download their whitepaper here.)


Image source: StockSnap

But it’s not just the startups trying to make sense of this hazardous digital landscape: the government is also focussing their efforts on education to influence a more vigilant online community.

In 2014, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills launched Cyber Essentials, a program that helps educate and protect businesses against online risks, which over 1,000 businesses have adopted. And more recently, Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey announced a new £500,000 fund to ‘help universities and colleges develop innovative teaching and learning to provide the cyber security skills needed to protect the UK now and in the future.’

The current state of affairs

Unfortunately, the notion of completely stopping cyber crime just isn’t feasible. Chappell sums up the modern digital landscape perfectly: ‘These days, it’s not all about you never having an incident. It’s about, you’re going to have incidents, so how do you respond? It’s much more about resilience than about stopping the worst from happening. Because frankly, the worst will always happen. It’s how you recover from it that counts.’

What steps do you take against cyber crime, if any? Let us know in the comments!

By Fabio Virgi

I'm the guy behind Let's Talk Tech and a travel blog called Fab Meets World. Some people call me a geek, I think they're probably right. I'm fascinated by technology and innovation, love good design and own way too many gadgets for my own good. Want to connect? Get in touch on Twitter and Instagram.