It’s been a whole decade since the Pew Research Center first partnered with Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center to survey experts about the future of cyber threats, and plenty has changed in that time.
While many in the cyber security community considered 2013 to be the worst year so far for data breaches, 2014 is doing everything it can to earn the title for itself. While the now infamous Target breach that compromised 40 million credit card numbers occurred in 2013, this year has brought with it dozens of corporate breaches and the hack of Home Depot’s point of sale systems that exposed 56 million payment cards. According to a blog post by Trend Micro’s Numaan Huq, 2014 has also played host to the creation of an increased number of families of PoS RAM scraper malware. While six variants were discovered between 2011 and 2013, the same number was identified in just the first nine months of 2014, and four were found between June and August alone.
This year, Pew researchers spoke with more than 1,600 experts in technology and other fields, as well as Internet builders, to compile this year’s report on the future of cyber security. More than 60 percent of participants said they believe a major cyber attack will occur in the next 10 years that will damage America’s security and ability to defend itself. The majority of respondents also predicted that large-scale cyber theft will become more prevalent in the future, resulting in increased economic disruptions.
The report also revealed the common belief among experts that individuals will experience increased attacks on their information, while enterprises will remain consistently under threat of a cyber intrusion. One of the most vulnerable targets in the near future will be essential utilities, according to the study.
Increased connectivity putting security at risk
A common theme of the report centered around the fact that the increased connectivity offered by the Internet will likely eventually be its downfall. Marc Maiffret, CTO of security firm Beyond Trust, noted that the biggest area of concern for cyber intrusions is the ever-expanding Internet of Things. In an interview with eWEEK, Maiffret said that the area of technology “needs a wake up call” and that may come in the form of a massive cyber attack.
In an interview with The Washington Post, former counsel for the National Security Agency Joel Brenner noted that the Internet was not created with security in mind, and yet today’s users expect the environment to be inherently safe.
“The Internet was not built for security, yet we have made it the backbone of virtually all private-sector and government operations, as well as communications,” said Brenner. “Pervasive connectivity has brought dramatic gains in productivity and pleasure but has created equally dramatic vulnerabilities. Huge heists of personal information are common, and cyber theft of intellectual property and infrastructure penetrations continue at a frightening pace.”
It might not be as bad as it looks
While there are certainly things to be concerned about with the current state of cyber security, some experts suggest that things aren’t as bad as they seem. In an interview with eWEEK, executive vice president of Intel Security Mike Fey said that a large attack on the U.S. is likely, but there are a variety of threat protection and intelligence methods available now that are capable of repelling such an attack and minimizing its damage.
“Like all the technology systems we rely on every day—the airline system, the electric grid—our electronic banking networks are very safe, and our industry is continuing to innovate to make them even safer,” said Fey.