Kevin Coleman

COMMENTARY

Threat intensity of cyber aggression to rise in 2012

It’s the new year, and with it comes the tradition of predictions. And this year is no different. Looking at a healthy cross section of cybersecurity reports, it appears almost everyone is in agreement that 2012 will be a banner year when it comes to the threat of cyberattacks. Technolytics began tracking acts of cyber aggression in 2007. Acts of cyber aggression are defined as the unlawful use or threatened use or acts of cyber aggression (i.e., cyberattacks) designed and conducted to intimidate, compel targets to comply with the perpetrator's demand, or to disrupt, defame or destroy the online operations, or data of the target. Threat intensity is defined at the vigor, force, energy, strength or concentration associated with the use of threatening cyber activities.

This chart, which seeks to show the magnitude of change from one year to the next, clearly illustrates the growth of cyber hostilities over the past five years. If you compare the threat intensity of 2010 with that measured in 2011, it more than doubled. This is the largest year-to-year growth in the five year history of this metric. The trend illustrated in the chart serves to reaffirm the numerous forecasts for 2012 and the forecasts reinforce the acts of cyber aggression trend illustrated in the bar graph. It is clearly disturbing to those on the front line and confronts the challenge of securing our information systems each and every day.


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The growth in attack sophistication, complexity and also the process used to carry out the attacks and overall success rate clearly indicates a greater percentage of the cyber weapons used in these attacks are professionally developed. Another indicator that must be considered is the increased focus on organizations involved in the defense and financial services industries and in hi-tech and scientific research activities. Analysis indicates the nearly 55 percent of organizations in these sectors experience regular attacks. The nature of this threat has changed over time and one sector has rapidly evolved into what has been referred to as a crusade by activists, hacktivists, extremists and terrorists looking to further their causes.

Of the 52 cyberattack vectors, malware that targets mobile devices and vehicles is expected to be the threat de jour. As organizations, domestic and international, move to address this threat, the skilled resource constraints are becoming more evident. Great Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters has gotten creative in its recruiting and retention efforts. It has used an online puzzle competition to identify and attract recruits and bonuses to stop the brain drain of staff members being targeted by business and other government organizations.

We are all good at predicting the growth of cyber activities. What we are not so good at is doing something about the threat.

About the Author

Kevin Coleman is a senior fellow with the Technolytics Institute, former chief strategist at Netscape, and an adviser on cyber warfare and security. He is also the author of "Cyber Commander's Handbook." He can be reached by e-mail at: kgcoleman@technolytics.com.

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