In-depth

Five security disasters to shake the world

In the world of cyber security, disasters are no longer science fiction but a terrifying reality. We look at five of the most serious threats facing the world today.

IT security as a topic for serious discussion has stepped up a notch this year.

Two major forces have been behind this: compliance and the emergence of Stuxnet. The former, although undoubtedly more of a pressing concern for businesses, is considerably less exciting than the latter.

However, Stuxnet has had more of an impact on the general consciousness of not just the security sphere, but in the wider world too. It made people understand that cataclysmic events caused by cyber actions are now a serious possibility, and not just the imaginings of Hollywood scriptwriters.

IT PRO asked members of the security industry what disasters could strike and what their impact might be. We whittled it down to five plausible, in some cases fairly likely, eventualities.

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The critical infrastructure collapse

The security of critical infrastructure providers has been on the lips of everyone from security researchers to GCHQ directors since Stuxnet broke out.

It is almost certain other pieces of malware with similar levels of sophistication and financial backing to Stuxnet are out there now. In fact, they are likely to be even more intelligent pieces of malicious kit, given they have hidden themselves from detection.

Consider this: any nuclear centres using Windows software are at risk from such threats, which could help hackers gain access to systems and initiate a major disaster. The potential for chaos is clear. No longer are cyber attackers limited to the digital world. They can take lives from the comfort of their own desk chair.

Outside of nuclear sites, hackers could compromise power grids, utility supplies and manufacturing equipment and cause utter devastation.

With the latter, if a hacker managed to modify the parameters of manufacturing systems, there could be an increase or decrease in production rates, thereby effecting businesses of all kinds. In turn, the economy would also take a hit.

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Changes could also be made to the products or parts in production, tricking companies into sending out faulty parts, such as car brakes for instance. The turmoil that followed the Toyota brakes fiasco is reason enough for firms to worry.

It is clear that protecting these kinds of services is now vital to both businesses and national security at large. Panda Security summed it up nicely, telling IT PRO "this is not Sci-Fi, but reality right now."

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