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The week in review: international cyberwarfare, the cost of data breaches and the future of privacy

The week in review: international cyberwarfare, the cost of data breaches and the future of privacy

By Don Dobson

In our weekly roundup, we draw your attention to selected news and articles that highlight issues relating to invasions of your online privacy and threats to the security of your personal data, including problems that Dodoname can help solve. The Sony hack was catching everyone’s attention this week, banks and retailers are arguing about footing the data breach bill and there is some new thought provoking research on our digital lives and where we are going with privacy. For all our privacy, security and personal data related posts follow @MyDodoname on Twitter.

Truth is stranger than fiction

While “The Interview” is a screwball comedy based on a highly improbable scenario, even Hollywood could not have written the script we see playing out with the Sony hack. Reports indicate that the data breach of terabytes of all manner of data (including employee personal data) at Sony was, in fact, carried out by North Korea. While state-on-state cyberwar is certainly not the personal privacy milieu of Dodoname, there are some sobering implications of the Sony hack which are likely to reverberate across business, in what may come to be seen as a real turning point for how we look at cybersecurity.

North Korea’s Bureau 121 is certainly not the only hacker group out there. In previous weeks we shared posts about how criminal hacking was a major industry in some places. A Monday post by Robert Beckhusen and Matthew Gault suggested that it wasn’t cyberwar that we need to be worried about but cybercrime, since the U.S. — and the rest of the world, for that matter — aren’t ready to deal with cybercrime. As they point out, cybercrime is often stateless. Hackers operate across borders.

When we get to the point where Crimeware-as-a-Service Threatens Banks, The Economist notes in regard to cybercrime that the growth in general wickedness online is testing the police, and underground hacker markets are peddling complete kits for hackers monetizing every piece of data they can steal or buy and are adding services, it starts to feel like, whether we like it or not, 2015 will be a watershed year for cybersecurity. With polls reporting that almost half of Americans say their card details have been stolen in a data breach, it is also no surprise to see observers suggesting that protecting consumers’ data should be at top of new Congress’ agenda.

Who pays the bill?

As the cost of data breaches starts to explode, there is mounting tension between retailers and card issuers. Banking and Credit Union association officials Jim Nussle and Camden R. Fine note the instant criminal hackers gain access to consumer financial data, they sell the information to the highest bidders. Protecting the consumer then becomes the duty of financial institutions—leaving banks and credit unions on the hook for fronting the bill. Their industry feels it’s time for retailers to join efforts to put a stop to data breaches and protect the consumer. Current U.S. laws on data protection for retailers are not as strict as financial institutions and as a result there is little incentive to address their security flaws, because financial institutions are responsible for cleaning up their mess. We expect that retailers will face increased liability as laws are almost certain to change, highlighting the potential value to retailers of participating in a privacy marketing platform like Dodoname.

The future of privacy

The Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project aims to be an authoritative source on the evolution of the Internet through surveys that examine how Americans use the Internet and how their activities affect their lives. They canvassed thousands (2,511) of experts and Internet builders to share their predictions on the future of privacy and released the results of those efforts this week.

In theintro to the report, Pew notes “The terms of citizenship and social life are rapidly changing in the digital age. No issue highlights this any better than privacy, always a fluid and context-situated concept and more so now as the boundary between being private and being public is shifting.

We recommend the entire report as a fascinating read. It reveals that, while we all can see benefits in our ever increasing digital lifestyle, privacy does mean something. However, it’s moving so fast that all parties are struggling to decide what it does mean and where it is going. Lots of food for thought for sure, but you won’t find a simple consensus. A taste of what we mean follows and do check out the full report.

We are at a crossroads,” noted Vytautas Butrimas, the chief adviser to a major government’s ministry. He added a quip from a colleague who has watched the rise of surveillance in all forms, who proclaimed, “George Orwell may have been an optimist,” in imagining “Big Brother.”

An executive at an Internet top-level domain name operator who preferred to remain anonymous replied, “Big data equals big business. Those special interests will continue to block any effective public policy work to ensure security, liberty, and privacy online.”

John Wilbanks, chief commons officer for Sage Bionetworks, wrote, “We have never had ubiquitous surveillance before, much less a form of ubiquitous surveillance that emerges primarily from voluntary (if market-obscured) choices. Predicting how it shakes out is just fantasy.”

An information science professional responded, “Individuals are willing to give up privacy for the reasons of ease, fastness, and convenience… If anything, consumer tracking will increase, and almost all data entered online will be considered ‘fair game’ for purposes of analytics and producing ‘user-driven’ ads. Privacy is an archaic term when used in reference to depositing information online.

Joe Kochan, chief operating officer for US Ignite, a company developing gigabit-ready digital experiences and applications, observed, “I do not believe that there is a ‘right balance’ between privacy, security, and compelling content. This will need to be a constantly negotiated balance—one that will swing too far in one direction or another with each iteration… Public norms will continue to trend toward the desire for more privacy, while people’s actions will tend toward giving up more and more control over their data.”

Posted in: Data breach, Privacy, Spam, This week in review

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