Cybercrime affects all of us. Every day, hundreds of thousands of malware samples are analysed: most used in random, speculative attacks on ordinary people engaged in banking, shopping or socialising online. However, the number of targeted attacks affecting large corporations and even government bodies has grown in recent years. In February this year we uncovered the cyber-espionage campaigns Carbanak, Equation and Desert Falcons. More recently we have seen Hellsing and CozyDuke - the latter attacking extremely sensitive high-profile victims, possibly including the White House and the US Department of State.
These dramatic security discoveries raise many questions, but one thing they really bring home is the fact that cyber-security is no longer just about localised attacks on consumers and businesses - it is now a global issue that affects a whole host of different business, industrial and government targets worldwide, irrespective of where the cybercriminals behind an attack might be based. Carbanak, mentioned above, is a perfect example. It's little wonder that it has been dubbed 'The great bank robbery': the attackers were able to steal up to $1bn from 100 different banks worldwide. With new attacks like these being revealed on what feels like a weekly basis, it's clear that that anyone, regardless of their location or the activities they're engaged in, can fall victim to an attack.
In today's connected world we are hugely dependent on IT. This is true of our personal lives: the majority of us now own multiple connected devices - traditional desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. On top of this, everyday objects - from fitness bands to cars to smart meters - are connected. Moreover, the critical infrastructure that underpins modern life (power grids, telecommunications, transportation networks, etc.) also now rely heavily on IT infrastructure. The 'always-on' nature of life today increases our potential vulnerability to cyber-attacks.
As the world's dependence on IT grows, so does its dependence on IT security experts, something that recently led Kaspersky Lab CEO, Eugene Kaspersky, to draw a comparison between the roles of doctors and IT security researchers. He has suggested that IT security experts have essentially become the doctors of the IT world. The IT security industry has adopted words such as 'virus' and 'infection' and is there to 'heal' victims' devices should they become compromised. Likewise, both professions seek to carry out their work regardless of the source of the problem:
"Can you imagine a doctor refusing to treat someone because his or her nationality was 'wrong'? It would be racist, against the ethics of the profession, and in most countries considered a criminal act. For me, the idea that drives the IT security industry is simple and pretty similar: detect and disclose threats no matter where they come from. This is how you can both prevent a large-scale epidemic, or help those affected should one occur. At the same time this is how you can build up people's trust in your work." (Eugene Kaspersky - read the full blog here.)
Borders do not matter in the medical profession, so why should they in the cyber world? Cyber-security is now, more than ever, a global issue which should be tackled as one, rather than on a piecemeal basis. But in order to do this there must be global co-operation. We have already seen a few examples of this in play. Kaspersky Lab, for example, has recently teamed up with Interpol to help address this issue head-on. This co-operation demonstrates the importance of collaboration in the ongoing struggle to combat cybercrime. Since teaming up, Interpol and Kaspersky Lab have used joint expertise to warn consumers of cyber-espionage campaigns such as the aforementioned Carbanak and more recently, working together to disrupt the Simda criminal botnet - a network of thousands of infected PCs around the world. They've also published joint reports to educate people about the latest threats, for example, last year's Mobile Cyber Threats report.
Co-operation on this scale has already brought success. Take the GOZeus malware for example - last year the National Crime Agency (NCA) issued a warning to consumers to back up their systems before this ransomware found its way onto their computers - helping many potential victims to secure their valuable data and preventing the wholesale extortion of money.
Cybercrime is a global issue that can affect each and every one of us, regardless of where we are and what we do. The response to cybercrime must be equally universal.