How would you react to seeing a major incident occur in real time right in front of your eyes?
During the summer of 1993 without any prior warning I was an eye witness to a plane crash. Two Mig 29 fighters from Russia were performing an aerobatic display at the Royal International Air Tattoo, held at Fairford in Gloucestershire, when they collided in mid air and came tumbling to the ground in massive fireballs.
Miraculously there were no injuries with both pilots ejecting safely. The official investigation determined that pilot error was the cause, after one pilot did a reverse loop and disappeared into the clouds, the other one lost sight of his wingman and aborted the routine.
What sticks in my mind most about this event was how seemingly robust technology, technology that less than 5 years previously had been on the Russian side of the Cold War, was reduced to nothing in a matter of seconds by one single flaw. In this case the flaw was human. Millions of pounds of hardware investment lay in a pile that was no longer of any significant use. I watched as the wreckage was packed up and shipped off to, I assume, a secret location where military grade aircraft accident investigators would forensically analyse this former adversary’s technology.
Fast forward almost quarter of a century and you can actually watch, in real time, the relentless attempts to compromise the flaws in today’s leading edge technology by cyber criminals. For a couple of years now the team at Kaspersky have been running an interactive cyberthreat map that is almost hypnotic in its illustrations of attempted attacks.
By taking the real time data from its globally distributed cloud-based infrastructure Kaspersky can display and categorise threats that include malicious objects detected during on-access and on-demand scans, email and web antivirus detections, as well as objects identified by vulnerability and intrusion detection sub-systems. Watch it for more than 3 mins and you could almost convince yourself that you are witnessing the end of the world! Don’t worry, you’re not.
This is not a thinly veiled advert for Kaspersky, or its products, but what it does show is that attempted cyber crime is relentless, it rarely pauses and it never slows down. Kaspersky has added to the map an ever increasing counter showing the number of attacks that have been thwarted. These numbers, which reset every night, run into the hundreds of thousands. These numbers are, remember, the attempted attacks, the ones that Kaspersky have prevented. What about those that have gotten though? What about those attacks that are thwarted by technology from other vendors? Vendors such as IBM, Cisco, FireEye, Fortinet, Sophos and more.
For further amusement you can click on your country of choice to see its current ranking in the ‘most attacked league’. As of writing the UK was 24th, The USA was 4th and the home of the Mig 29, Russia was 2nd! and to save you the hassle, if you are looking for a ‘safe spot’ on the globe, then I can recommend Antarctica, which according to Kaspersky is languishing in 244th position.
Although this map is essentially a bit geeky fun, it’s underlying message is serious. Cyber crime, cyber threats are not going away and all the statistics in the world still cannot persuade some companies to start taking action. When the Migs crashed, nobody was hurt. Was this just lucky? No. The organisers of the show had an impeccable safety record, and this was the first accident in its history. Stricter safety rules governing airshows held in Britain were introduced in 1989 following a spate of accidents and no doubt continue to be enhanced.
When you witness an event that causes or attempts to cause material harm and you are in a position to prevent such events happening in the future, then surely you are compelled to address it. I’d urge any IT Manager, any Board Director, anybody in fact in business who has yet to commence a cyber security plan, to look at the Cyber Threat Map from Kaspersky for just a few minutes and realise that if just one of these attacks got through then their business could be as rapidly transformed into a pile of worthless junk as that Mig 29 was back on that fateful day in July 1993.