Senior lecturer at the University of South Australia’s school of computer and innovation, Dr Raymond Choo, has warned the KANZ Broadband Summit that the growth of the digital universe not only presents businesses with expansion opportunities, but also opens up an arena for those with criminal intentions.
He said a study by IDC indicated the amount of digital information created, captured and replicated in 2006 was about 161 billion GB and the digital universe will grow 10 times the size it was from 2006.
According to Dr. Choo, with 61.3 per cent of the Australian population online, cyber exploitation is no longer a matter of ‘if’ but rather ‘when’ and in an inter-connected world, threats can arise from unexpected sources.
“Take FaceBook for example; there are over 500 million active users… spending an average of 23 billion minutes per day [on it]. Publicly available information from sites such as FaceBook and Linkedin facilitate attacks using technical tools such as phishing in order to gain [this] privileged information,” he said.
As cyber exploitation and malicious activity have become more sophisticated, targeted and serious, looking ahead at the future of the online environment is essential.
Not only are home users threatened, governments and private sector networks are targeted as well.
The Australian government’s defense signal directorate reported an average of 700 malicious cyber incidents targeting defence networks in 2010 – an increase of 250 per cent since 2009.
More recently, parliamentary computers of several local federal ministers including the prime minister, foreign minister and defence minister were targeted.
Official crime statistics, compiled by law enforcement and other government agencies are, however, unlikely to indicate the cyber threat landscape for three reasons:
A recent study by MacAfee showed that more than 55,000 new malware were detected per day in 2010, cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated and going under the radar and most victims find out only months or years later that their data has been stolen.
Dr Choo said technical solutions could provide effective protection against cyber threats but did not provide a comprehensive solution alone.
“When approaching cyber security issues, we need to be flexible, creative and use factors that encourage the culture of security, innovation and information sharing; which leads to the formulation of policies and building of technologies that provide us with a safer environment,” he said.
The Australian government’s 2010 inquiry into cyber crime stressed the need for agency and research institution involvement and contribution in leading research to facilitate government policy and operational responses to cyber crime, Dr Choo said.
Along with the government, private sector individuals and research agencies have a part to play.
“An effective partnership between government, researchers and the private sector would enable resources to be better utilised in designing state of the art software that can be deployed in the online environment,” he said.