It's almost 17 years to the day when the film Hackers came out in cinemas. Whilst the film is obviously fictional, I found myself considering the other day whether our current cyber threats have surpassed those described in the film.
After all, cyber threats are getting more and more sophisticated. We rely on technology for almost everything today, and the prospect of it being interrupted or interfered with is terrifying to most of us. The spate of denial of service attacks by Lulzsec and Anonymous left many people wondering whether their bank or institution would be next on the list to be brought down - only for many of the hackers to be arrested across the globe in the subsequent months.
We've also seen the rise of 'industrialised' cyber attacks - the Stuxnet malware was designed to attack one very specific kind of machinery, and one very specific component within that technology. The Flame malware, arguably 'the most complicated piece of malware ever found' was linked to Stuxnet, and was a piece of software for recording audio, screenshots, keyboard activity and network traffic.
Duqu, Night Dragon, DNSChanger - the list goes on. Physical and social attacks are being combined with the virtual as the criminals and organisations use more complex, sophisticated attacks. A recent report from MI5 said that they are seeing 'astonishing' levels of cyber attacks - in their words "The dog you haven't seen may turn out to be the one that bites you."
Of course, cybersecurity is evolving in parallel at both an everyday level and organisational level. Many of us have antivirus on our mobile phones now, something which would have seemed unfathomable ten years ago. Our enterprise security has become scalable, adaptable, context aware and unified, taking protection to the next step to stay ahead of the hackers wherever possible.
There's a moth and flame situation with cyber-security. We're intrigued by something profoundly destructive, and frequently dismiss these threats as interesting stories that seem too evolved and complex that they can't possibly affect us.
But they can and will. And whilst we as consumers are getting savvier about protecting ourselves, it's always worth remembering that companies, institutions and governmental organisations are also working to protect us in tandem.