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The Worth Of The Internet Is At Stake

By Michael CollinsMarket OverviewJun 23, 2017 13:36
au.investing.com/analysis/the-worth-of-the-internet-is-at-stake-200195888
The Worth Of The Internet Is At Stake
By Michael Collins   |  Jun 23, 2017 13:36
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Originally published by Magellan Asset Management Limited

In mid-April, the ‘Shadow Hackers’ online group made public some malicious software known as ‘EternalBlue’ that had been stolen from the US government’s National Security Agency, which develops hacking tools to gather intelligence.

About a month later, ‘ransomware’ incorporating the bugs penetrated perhaps 300,000 computers running outdated Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) software in an estimated 150 countries. On entering a computer system, the cryptoware exploited a Windows flaw and sped through local networks via file-sharing structures. On infected computers, data became encrypted and owners were told they needed to pay a ransom in the untraceable online Bitcoin currency to have their files unscrambled. No payment and the files would be deleted.

Luckily the ransomware, dubbed WannaCry, was quickly defused. But the speed and extent by which the malware spread, WannaCry’s household-name business victims such as Nissan and Renault (PA:RENA), its disruption of the UK’s medical services and its ability to destroy data made the ransomware the most chilling cyberattack ever. But it’s perhaps not the most significant cyberattack ever. Many claim that emails hacked from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and released via Wikileaks helped Donald Trump become US president. Republican Senator John McCain has called the incident “an act of war” by Russia’s government, which is accused of financing the cyberattacks. In the last week of the French presidential election in May, hacked material from the campaign team of the eventual winner Emmanuel Macron was published in an apparent attempt to sway voters.

Other notorious incidents of cybercrime include this year’s malware attack on the US Chipotle restaurant chain that stole credit-card details from an unknown number of customers. In 2016, MySpace suffered the theft of about 350 million passwords and emails while hackers robbed US$81 million from the central Bangladesh Bank by hacking into the international money transfer system. In 2014, hackers snatched about 500 million account details from Yahoo (NASDAQ:AABA), stole details of about 47,000 employees and actors from Sony Pictures Entertainment, pilfered more than 100 million customer details from eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) and stole credit-card information from 50 million customers of The Home Depot (NYSE:HD) of the US. In 2013, 40 million credit-card numbers were lifted from Target in the US. Verizon (NYSE:VZ) says that the number of data breaches around the world where at least 100 million identities were exposed numbered 15 in 2016, 13 in 2015 and 11 in 2014. Stolen items such as these are then traded undetected on the internet.

Cybercrime, according to some estimates, is already a US$1 trillion industry worldwide and is growing fast. In the US, the FBI says that reported ransoms paid to hackers jumped from US$24 million in 2015 to US$209 million in the first three months of 2016. The UK’s National Crime Agency says cybercrime is underreported yet was responsible for the majority (53%) of recorded crime in the UK in 2015. The country’s Office of National Statistics estimates there were 2.46 million cyber incidents in the UK in 2015 and 2.11 million victims.

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The Worth Of The Internet Is At Stake

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