Cybercrime is an issue that impacts individuals and organizations in a range of different industries. This prolific and prevalent issue is one that calls for immediate action to address and prevent its consequences, since if ignored, these threats will only get worse. For this reason, a number of organizations have been joining in the fight against cybercriminals, working toward a world that is more educated and prepared to guard their personal information against hackers.
Company looks to establish cybercrime research development operations hub
In August, one company announced new efforts in cybercrime prevention with the creation of more than 90 jobs specifically focused on fighting hacker intrusion. According to the Belfast Telegraph, California-based Proofpoint, a security and malware detection software firm, plans to hire 94 IT staff members as part of a $1.6 billion investment.
The new employees will staff an expanded operation within the company that will provide research and information about cybercrime threats to a customer base of small- to mid-size enterprises in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The hope for this new department is to better educate companies on the threat of cybercrime and defense techniques.
"A lot of these attacks are very sophisticated and targeted," noted Proofpoint chief executive Gary Steele. "They often happen long before the firm is aware and the reputational and financial damage to small and medium companies can be immense."
Steele noted that many smaller businesses still believe they will not be targeted for an attack. Once armed with better knowledge about the threat landscape and how they can protect themselves, Steele hopes that these groups will no longer "leave their doors unlocked and without adequate Internet security."
Retailers join forces, share information
One sector that is a particular target for cyberthieves is the retail industry. Because merchants often store and have access to large amounts of client details – including names, addresses and payment card information – hackers seek out these groups and attempt to infiltrate their networks and steal this data. To better safeguard against these types of malicious activities, several large retailers, alongside The Retail Industry Leaders Association, have banded together to establish an information-sharing center to prevent cybercrime, according to The New York Times.
Vendors like the Gap, Walgreens, Target and Nike are among those involved in the initiative, which centers around the opening of a hub where retailers can share data breach and online threat details. The information-sharing center, which opened in May, was formed in the hopes that these organizations can better arm themselves with this knowledge, as well as inform their fellow retailers. The cybercrime data is also being passed along to law enforcement to aid in the legal fight against hackers.
The New York Times noted while efforts in connection with the center began shortly after several large-scale data breaches took place in 2013 and this year, cybercrime has been a focus of the industry long before these events took place.
"All of our members have been focused on this for a long time," said Sandy Kennedy, The Retail Industry Leaders Association president. "We're looking at how we can deal with this [in the] long term."
The potential for a cyber-CDC
As the retail industry works to further its mission for an information-sharing center to bolster cybercrime defenses, Peter Singer, Wired contributor and New American Foundation strategist, noted that a similar group involving even more businesses could considerably shift the way the world deals with hacker intrusion and prevention. Singer likens this organization to a cyber version of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which became an impactful group due to its mission to become a central research point for the threats others weren't willing to confront or handle.
"A similar gap could be filled by creating a cyber-CDC," Singer wrote. "Forming an agency whose core mission is cybersecurity research and information sharing would help change the nature of the game. We similarly need a publicly funded research organization, trying to understand emerging trends and threats, as well as a reliable clearinghouse, transparently sharing information to anyone and everyone who needs it."
Singer envisions a group whose sole purpose is fighting cybercrime, as opposed to an organization made up of businesses with a range of different focuses. In this way, the cyber-CDC wouldn't take the place of initiatives like that of The Retail Industry Leaders' information-sharing hub, but would "fill a gap that now exists between the public and private space," Singer noted.
One of the main points, and benefits, of such a group would be trust. Singer pointed out that when threats like the Heartbleed bug emerge, everyone is looking for answers. However, when businesses and other firms come out with research on the issue, some find it hard to trust these responses as they may not be seen as impartial.
"Just as the CDC plays a key part in public education on preventative healthcare, so too could a cyber-CDC be a hub for better 'cyberhygiene,'" Singer noted. "There are many technical, policy, and legal gaps in cybersecurity today. But maybe what is missing most is an intermediary we can trust."
These initiatives – from Proofpoint's new cybercrime research staff, The Retail Industry Leaders Association information-sharing hub and the possibility for a cyber-CDC – illustrate just how hackers are being fought on an individual and industry-wide level. As merchants and businesses continue their efforts to educate others and prevent external cybercriminal threats, the severity and frequency of these security events will hopefully be reduced.