A year has passed since Edward Joseph Snowden, an ex-CIA agent, exposed the personal information collection activities of the National Security Agency (NSA). Concerns about cyber security expanded around the world, as cyber crimes cause firms and nations to wage digital war with one another.
As the government in each nation focus on protecting confidential information, damage among individuals and private companies is increasing rapidly. The Financial Times (FT) said in a recent report, “The height of ‘cyber security horror’ has reached its ceiling, as hackers easily break into computers of the government, firms, and individuals.” The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has also revealed that 1,174 reports, 519 more than the same time last year, have been made by firms feeling threatened by cyber security problems. The target industries are diverse, from private banks, to energy and distribution companies.
The American distribution industry was attacked by hackers resulting in loss of personal info such as credit card details of 40 million customers and private addresses and contact information of 70 million customers. Neiman Marcus, a high-end department store, had 1.1 million sets of credit card information stolen, of which 2,400 were illegally used to steal money.
According to Security Affairs, a non-profit cyber security organization, US$110 billion has been invested in preventing cyber terror worldwide. The FT stated, “We experience US$2.8 billion to 120 billion annual economic loss rom company hacking activities in the U.S. alone.”
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently revealed that annual direct damages from hacking amount to US$160 billion, and US$445 billion inclusive of financial casualties from stolen intellectual property. The financial damage from stolen personal information due to exposed credit card information is US$150 billion.
Fifteen percent of U.S. citizens (40 million) have had private information stolen, while 54 million people in Turkey have suffered major damages. Among other countries, over 16 million in Germany and 20 million in China were affected.
Additionally, CSIS stated that cybercrime negatively influenced commerce, industrial competence, and innovation.
Korea’s Internet Environment Very Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks
During the cyber attacks on March 20 last year, Korea also suffered damages, causing a paralysis of computer networks in the broadcasting and finance industries. The nation was disturbed with a series of personal information leaks from financial companies this year as well. These instances had been a repeat of four major financial accidents in firms including Hyundai Capital back in 2011. Yet this predicament is getting worse instead of better.
The issue at hand is that hackers around the world are targeting Korea as a stopover destination. According to Korea Internet and Security Agency (KISA), 70 percent of worldwide Internet malware stops off at Korea’s Internet. However, this is not due to the high rate of Internet service availability and electronic banking usage, but rather the fundamental problems of defective Internet security and OS/browsers with bad security.
“Korea has the fastest Internet access speed globally. However, Internet users are still adopting outdated security systems that hinder e-commerce and development,” reported Financial Times (FT) addressing this matter on June 6. It added that Korean users are dependent on Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) software, which has weak security.
This consequently caused malware programs to actively take over Korea’s Internet, evidently inhabiting Korea as the location most appropriate for phishing and pharming experiments possible through malware seeding. The number of dotcoms doubled compared to last year, amounting to 850,000.
Training and Recruiting ‘White Hat’ Hackers throughout the World
Governments worldwide are swiftly proceeding with matters of reinforcing security as the scale of cyber attacks is growing.
The Department of Defense established the U.S. Cyber Command last year to take action against cyber terror. They plan to increase the number of their employees from about 900 to 4,900 in 2016. The U.S. Cyber Command has US$447 million dollars to spend in 2014, twice as much as last year. This organization will take over defense tasks for national security as well as against cyber-attacks on private businesses.
Efforts are intensifying for training and recruiting “White Hat” hackers, who are experts in cyber security against malicious hacking. As openings in government organizations such as the NSA, CIA, and FBI are increasing, Ivy League universities in the eastern U.S. are establishing new courses on computer security-related programs. Fortune magazine stated, “New employees of the cyber defense industry with a bachelor’s degree will receive a starting salary of US$88,000 to US$100,000.”
India increased cyber security professionals to 5,000, assigning them to six government organizations. Some government organizations in Russia, China, and Iran are even scouting out IT experts working in U.K. governments and businesses. Korea has also suffered from various hacking incidents. As national cyber security is exposed to a high risk due to cyberattacks, calls for cyber security recruitment and training are rising.
Under the circumstances, chances for future cyber warriors to learn working knowledge and knowhow from top experts in information security have been arranged, attracting interest from students who wish to be security specialists.
Best of the Best (BoB), a training program for future leaders of cyber security, recruited members of their 3rd trainees class until June 11 to educate top candidates to take action against cyber terror. An alarming number (1,080) applied to take part in this program where only 120 trainees are taken, over twice as much as last year. The security education program was hosted by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, and managed by the Korea Information Technology Research Institute (KITRI).
Yoo Jun-sang, president of KITRI, is seeking 100,000 cyber security personnel. He said, “As BoB fosters key talents in future national cyber security and seeks to lead the information security industry, we are striving to establish thorough theories and preparation training of the newest security trends and high-end technology.”
In the meantime, colleges, including Korea University and Joongang University, are establishing cyber security-related majors in a similar manner. According to the Korea Internet Security Agency (KISA), there is a shortage of information security manpower, as 2,000 to 3,000 jobs cannot be filled. Demand can only increase as well, as financial authorities and banks plan to establish a customer privacy center to reinforce information security.