It used to be a simple topic to explain: if the hacking attempt to undermine or subvert a government entity was sponsored by another country, it was considered cyberwarfare, and if by a geo-political group, (but not a recognized nation) cyber-terrorism. Everything else fell into the lesser evil that was Spam used by desperate marketers, and viruses used by anarchists and pranksters to sow chaos and prove hacking prowess. Six or seven years ago, for most of us, malware was a nuisance, sometimes a business headache and relatively uncommon. Spam was a significant threat, but mostly in that it prevented us from reading important emails in a timely fashion.
Welcome to 2018
Malware and spam has become so prevalent that no device with a processing unit is safe, translated to essentially anything that can connect to the internet. On top of this, both criminal and subversive political entities (nations, terrorists and even activists) have thoroughly integrated these tools within a larger internet-powered toolkit that also includes social media and big-data algorithms. The result? These shadowy groups have developed an eye-popping ability to coalesce disparate demographic niches or divide communities according to various agendas, most of which could be considered detrimental to the advancement of humanity. Hacking a nation to swing an election used to be science fiction, but now it seems way closer to home than we thought. Ransomware made criminals $24M in 2015, $1B in 2016, and is predicted to top $5B in 2017. This particular type of malware became the darling of online-organized crime and has held businesses, hospitals, churches and even an entire city hostage for crippling amounts of time. Personal information and identity theft has become so commonplace that even the massive Equifax breach has been essentially forgotten. You may not have realized it, but the real cyberwar isn’t being fought between nations. This is a war for the legitimacy and integrity of the internet, and we are all on the front line. What’s perhaps most terrifying is that it’s no longer clear who the bad guys are, and if there is anyone standing up for the average human just trying to make it through the day without being hacked, breached, phished, spammed or misled.
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