internet security

Cyber attacks to escalate over next decade

Bill Goodwin

Medical implants, cars and critical infrastructure such as gas pipelines could be at risk from cyber attacks

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by the end of the decade.

Explosive growth in the number of devices connected to the internet will open up new threats to people and infrastructure, a study backed by police and businesses claims.

The study, carried out by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, along with the International Cyber Security Protection Alliance (ICSPA) – a body which brings together law enforcement organisations and technology companies – predicts a huge growth in virtual reality technologies.

People will use augmented reality spectacles or contact lenses to download information as they travel, complete with Minority Report-style advertisements.

However, the technology opens up new risks to privacy and new opportunities for cyber criminals to harvest personal data and potentially cause serious psychological and physical harm, the study, dubbed Project 2020, warns.

Cyber crime: the movies

A series of online action videos aims to get people talking about the potential effects of cyber crime over the next seven years.

The mini movies, commissioned by Trend Micro, draw on scenarios identified in a study by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, along with the International Cyber Security Protection Alliance (ICSPA) – a body which brings together law enforcement organisations and technology companies – about the effects of cyber crime.

One of the videos, based on the groups' Project 2020 study, tells the story of Kinuko, who experiences the world through contact lenses that superimpose virtual reality images onto the real world.

Other story lines follow the adventures of a robot manufacturer as it tries to protect itself from activist hackers trying to undermine its supply chain, and South Sylvania, an emerging nation which uses behavioural profiling to identify individuals at risk of engaging in terrorist or criminal activity.

Governments and IT manufacturers will need to work more creatively and flexibly to police these cyber threats, said John Lyons, chief executive of the ICSPA.

The existing government and private sector-funded initiative, Get Safe Online, has made very little discernable difference to the way the public behave online, said Lyons.                                 

“There is a feeling among the community that it has not changed behaviour a lot,” he said.

Some IT manufacturers are exacerbating the problem by releasing new products before they have been properly tested, said Lyons. They are engaging in reckless behaviour because of competitive pressure to get products out first, he said.

However, the public will become more aware of the value of their personal data, the report predicts.

People will begin to exert more control over their personal data,” said Rik Ferguson, global vice-president of security research at Trend Micro.

In the future, people may earn an income stream by choosing to sell their personal data to companies offering services over the internet, the research predicts.

Troels Oerting, head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, said governments need to devote adequate resources to fighting cyber crime.

Cyber criminals are moving to states in Africa and Asia, which lack the resources and infrastructure to police them, he said.