Cyber terrorism is a real threat

Kirill Makarov | Dreamstime.com

Modern terrorism and cyberwar are major threats to our society’s way of life. Gone are the days in which acts of war or terrorism need to be carried out by foot soldiers on the ground. Serious pain can be inflicted on targets without ever stepping foot inside the country in which they reside. Attacks against governments, businesses or critical infrastructure can take place in seconds with well-planned synchronised attacks. These attacks could bring down power, telecommunications, financial or even transport. Seriously imagine the chaos if all trains were stopped, traffic lights where all set to green or red or even just flashing yellow in almost any major city around the world. That would be chaotic with a massive financial impact on the economy.

Let’s think about it, Sydney Australia has approximately 5.23 million people, with approximately 1 in 5 people (the statistics are a few years old but will demonstrate my point) who use a form of public transport to get to work each day. That’s 1,046,000 people making their way to work that suddenly won’t turn up. Just imagine the complete standstill that will cause thousands of businesses to close their doors and many more to try and run at a greatly reduced capacity. Can you imagine it If 1/5th of all your staff didn’t turn up today? I think the 1 in 5 not arriving is probably being generous, if public transport was out, many of those 1 million people would then try to get to their jobs via road which will cause massive further delays in commute for a city that already suffers from severe traffic jam issues.

If malicious actors then crippled the traffic signals as well, I think it would be easier for everyone to just close their doors for the day. What if the problem couldn’t be resolved in a day, people who had made the extra effort to get to work may not be so keen to continue the process if it increased their days by an extra even 2-3 hours. A 12 hour day instead of an 8 hour one and the workload would be hideous with a large percentage of absent staff. Longer hours, reduced staffing, massive work that sounds like a recipe for half of Sydney’s population suddenly getting a case of the flu – Cough, cough.

Seriously, we are not ready for a full-scale cyber-terrorist attack like these, I don't think it is even something that has crossed most people minds but it is going to happen that is for certain. We need to consider the impact and have plans in place that we can enact to ensure that our businesses can continue to work as needed.

In some cases, we could look at having the ability to ramp up remote access capabilities to allow stranded staff to work from home or another non-city central location required? This is smart planning and would be a very useful addition to include as part of a disaster recovery plan. Look I get it, you are all probably thinking why would I plan for something that will probably never happen or even if it did wouldn't affect you or your organisation.

You need to be prepared for the possibility and at least know what you would do if it does occur. Yes, you are more likely to have a fire or be affected by a severe storm but cyber terrorism is a real threat in my opinion, along with cyberwar (you can check out a previous article on that here) so you need to ensure that as part of that disaster recovery plan you have a specific process that can be enacted in an instance of cyber terrorism or cyberwar. If you don't I believe that you are leaving your organisation open to a threat that could be planned for.

Somethings are hard to plan for but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try to manage the risks. So please go include this threat/recovery planning and make sure that mock scenarios are considered thoroughly it’s the only way that you can have some ounce of preparedness to reduce the possible impact.

So as always, tell me your thoughts, share your expertise and help us all be better prepared for any threat we might face in this truly unpredictable landscape we operate in.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

What is security's role in digital transformation?