By Dan Munson
Think about how often you check your bank statement online. Or, how often you check your email, shop online or even when you order a pizza from a website. Think about all the times you had to log in anywhere on the Internet. It would be terrible if anyone else was able to steal that information and impersonate you or even worse, wouldn’t it?
There is a constant battle out there between the hackers who are trying to steal your information and cyber security professionals who are trying to stop them. For example, many times a hacker, or a team of hackers, will find a vulnerability in a popular software and exploit it somehow, while the cyber security professionals work to “plug the hole” once it is known.
But when did this struggle between good and evil begin? Naturally, with the creation of the biggest network on the planet: the Internet.
The Early Years
In November of 1988, a graduate student named Robert Morris unleashed the Morris Worm on the still very young Internet, bringing many parts of it to a complete stop. Although the worm didn’t actually do any damage, the effect it had on the Internet led to the creation of the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). Morris was also the first person convicted of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986.
As the Internet started to gain popularity in the 1990’s, malware ran rampant. These ranged from annoying pop-up ads to the more dangerous spyware and trojan virus programs. To counter these new threats, the market for anti-virus programs exploded.These specialized programs use regularly updated definitions to stop viruses and other forms of malware from executing and infecting a system. On modern computers, antivirus software is usually the first line of defense against infection.
Attacks in the Modern Day
As antivirus programs became more sophisticated and widespread, attackers had to change strategies. Spam email and phishing attacks became more common as a huge number of individuals fell for it: about 23 percent open a phishing or spam email. Appropriate training and education is the most effective way to stop these attacks, as it is often the only way to keep a curious employee from putting an entire organization at risk.
In 2017, the ransomware program WannaCry was released. WannaCry was able to completely bypass antivirus software and infected many Windows Machines, encrypting the drive and demanding payment or else all the files were lost for good. A patch from Microsoft was released not long after the attack but the damage was already done to thousands of computers all around the world.
This new generation of attacks and malware show us how important it is to be aware of threats and how to respond to an attack if one had occurred. A degree from the George Washington University cyber security program will prepare you for the exciting world of cyber security.
The Future of Cyber Security
The WannaCry attacks have proven that hackers have become far more sophisticated in their methods and have shown why it’s even more important for cyber security professionals to stay one step ahead.
The cyber security industry has developed a number of strategies to help combat attacks and malware. Technologies such as:
- Artificial intelligence
- Machine learning
- More robust malware scanners
- Better firewall protection
Along with regular training, users can keep their own system safe as well as preventing the spread to vulnerable systems on the network.
By developing and using advanced technologies and strategies such as these, cyber security professionals are fighting back against a dangerous threat to both individuals and organizations. This ever-growing industry will need trained professionals as attacks continue to rise in both numbers and in complexity.