An American contractor is killed at an Iraqi military base, thought to be caused by Iranian-backed militias. The U.S. responds by assassinating General Qassim Suleimani, one of Iran’s top military strategists. Iran retaliates by launching missiles at two Iraqi bases holding U.S. troops. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issues a terrorism bulletin warning of Iran’s robust cyber program and a potential threat.
Then there’s China and Russia, recognized as the world’s greatest international cyber offenders. It’s been said that in the new landscape of international crime, battles will be fought with bytes and not bullets where the global cost of international cybercrimes could rise to as high $6 trillion by 2021.
What does that have to do with the average American? Consider these consequences:
Infrastructure vulnerability: This is where worst-case scenarios abound, affecting everything from our national power grid, to water supplies, to air traffic capabilities, leaving large populations vulnerable to attack. In August 2019, Iranian-sponsored hackers breached the network of Bahrain’s Electricity and Water Authority, prompting the organization to take its systems offline.
Corporate security costs: It’s not uncommon for companies to spend up to 10 percent of their IT budgets on cybersecurity due to growing cyber threats here and abroad. When the average cost of a cyberattack to a company is $200,000, this is a strategic focus for those wishing to cripple U.S. corporate assets.
Compromised IoT ecosystems: The power and potential of IoT is its ability to quickly and systematically connect systems and people. That’s also why it’s such a threat from international cybercriminals. Studies show that IoT devices are typically targeted within five minutes of being powered up. It only takes a few minutes to be at great risk.
State-sponsored fake video content: Video content is becoming a new interest of international cybercriminals looking to use fake content for deception and theft. Targeting an energy firm in the U.K., criminals recently used artificial intelligence-based software to impersonate the CEO’s voice in phone calls requesting fraudulent fund transfers.
Social impact: Human trafficking, pornography, and other illicit activities are moving from dark alleys to at-home computer screens. This is not only creating a large wave of cybercriminals and users but an equally large number of innocent victims being abused by the system.
The good news is that countries are joining forces to combat international cybercrime, companies are getting more sophisticated in identifying security threats, and individuals are becoming more cautious online. But we all need to be aware that the threat is growing and it’s only going to get more sophisticated and costly in the future.