Over the course of its first 20 years, the Internet has become an essential way of life for 2.5 billion out of 7 billion people. As a website developer, you are contributing to the growth of arguably one of most impressive inventions in the history of the human race.
Unfortunately, a shadow also hovers over the free dissemination of information around the world: the increasing number of threats to online users from hackers, spammers, and scammers. In fact, last year, there were a record number of data breaches This issue has become serious enough to warrant President Obama talking about cybersecurity during his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, January 20, 2015.
How This Affects You
Your role as a website designer is to either add Internet security to your own website or advise clients of the need to take care of this issue. Building a beautiful website without a concern for Internet security is a little like being an architect of a beautiful city who pays no heed to the barbarians waiting at the gates ready to loot and pillage it.
The Criminal Mind
Cybercriminals like bootleggers during the prohibition era or mafia gangsters during the 50’s, are tremendously motivated to carry on doing what they do best.
While cybercriminals may destroy a beautiful website out of malice, they usually do it because it is profitable. More often than not, then, they do it for the money. They are more akin to thieves who rob businesses for profits rather than vandals who like to paint graffiti on walls for fun.
Hackers steal money from bank accounts using banking Trojans and spam mass mailings. They earn money for data decryption using encryption ransomware, renting botnets, and spam mass mailings. They get paid for unblocking operating systems using mobile Trojan blockers, usually placing the application in Google play. And they are financially rewarded for stealing photographs, contacts, and personal correspondence by using a phishing page on a social network, renting hosting, or spam mass mailing.
Extent of Vulnerability
According to the National Cyber Security Alliance many small businesses are highly vulnerable. In talking to small business owners “two thirds (66%) say that their business is dependent on the Internet for its day-to-day operations; 38% characterize it as very dependent and 67% say they have become more dependent on the Internet in the last 12 months.” These businesses often have to protect important information: “69% handle sensitive information, including customer data; 49% have financial records and reports; 23% have their own intellectual property and 18% handle intellectual property belonging to others outside of the company.”
Multiple Threats Online
While there are many types of malicious software programs online, most of them can be classified as viruses, worms, or Trojans.
A virus gets attached to either a program or a file. When these are innocently shared online—for instance, friends may send each other family pictures or other files via email–they spread from computer to computer. The threat can be either mild or severe. They damage files, software programs, and hardware.
A worm is in many ways similar to a virus, but while a virus requires human beings to share programs or files, worms don’t need human help to propagate. Instead, they use file transport features to get around online.
A Trojan is named after the Trojan Horse that allowed the Greeks to trick the citizens of Troy into dragging a huge wooden horse into their city (purportedly, a gift to appease the goddess Athena.). The horse was filled with warriors who opened the gates at night to let the rest of the Greek army inside. In a similar way, apparently useful software from a legitimate website is downloaded onto a user’s hard-drive. Once the program is uninstalled, it causes tremendous damage.
As a web designer, one solution is to use excellent security software. According to Trend Micro, an Internet security firm responsible for Microsoft’s Azure Security, good security software should offer numerous layers of defense, so if one layer is breached, there is another layer of protection behind it. This software should also be simple to install, and easy to comprehend the settings and painless to use. Finally, this software should periodically scan for malware without conflicting with your other existing applications.
The reason the Obama Administration will be talking about cybersecurity as a national threat is because it is cybercrime in 2015 is expected to increase. If we all do our part, it will be much harder for cybercriminals to destroy the current free flow of information now available to humanity.