I need to make a small confession to you, please don’t judge me. At one point in my life I used my programming skills to deface a publicly facing computer, a simple but effective case of what by todays standards could be classed as a cyber crime. I humbly ask for your forgiveness.
In my defence I was only about 13 and the computer in question was a display model in WHSmith – yes, they used to actively sell home computers back in the 1980s – I had mastered being able to walk up to the Sinclair Spectrum +, throw in a few lines of BASIC, that would print the phrase ‘Stu Woz Ere’ in a continuing cycle of colours and associated sounds. Then I would swiftly move to the magazines and peruse the latest copy of Sinclair User and see if any shoppers would be baffled by handiwork.
Usually within a few minutes the ‘Computer Sales Specialist’ would see through my primitive form of cyber disruption, press the reset button and return my chosen weapon of choice to its factory defaults.
I’d slope off and see if I could do the same thing in Currys across the street!
Despite this admission, I can confirm that the hack reported by the BBC this week, which saw digital billboards outside Liverpool shopping centre, defaced by hackers was not of my doing. The hackers in questions displayed the text “We suggest you improve your security. Sincerely, your friendly neighbourhood hackers”, which is a significant improvement on my adolescent antics, and equally their attempts lasted about as long as mine did, as the screens, which are managed by an external company, were swiftly taken offline.
The external company, Elonex, did state that, “The incident appears to have been good-natured and not intended to cause offence or disruption, for which we are grateful”. I just hope that WHSmith felt the same about my little cyber jape.
At the other end of the cyber scale, the hacker group Shadow Brokers, who are widely believed to be behind the stolen National Security Agency tools used in the WannaCry attack, were back in the news this week as a story on CNET told how Cybersecurity experts wanted to buy the Shadow Brokers’ exploits before it caused the next WannaCry, but legal complications got in the way.
A group of cyber security researchers launched a crowdfunding effort to raise the $25,000 being demanded by the Shadow Brokers to get hold of the stolen code. Although their motives may have been honourable, to obtain the tools before hackers did and started using them for more attacks, the litany of legal problems it would run into by buying stolen hacks from a criminal organisation forced them to cease their campaign only 36 hours.
As CNET reported “The idea of paying criminals to protect the public has sparked a debate among security experts, as people worry it would only encourage future threats”
And these threats keep coming, keep developing and keep changing a point that can be verified by two IT big hitters, Cisco and IBM, who have formed a new partnership to tackle cybersecurity issues. One of the main driving forces of this partnership, as reported by CSO, is the continuing shortage of cyber security skills. This partnership can bring together the considerable talent at both companies, IBM is reported to have more than 8,000 people working in its security team, to tackle global cyber crime that they describe as “the greatest threat to every profession, every industry, every company in the world.”
…including WHSmith, but they’ve been dealing with low level cyber crime for quite a while now! Sorry.
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