Health insurance provider Anthem announced late Wednesday, Feb. 4 that it had experienced a massive security breach which exposed the information of up to 80 million of its current and former customers, as well as employees.
If the first 15 years of the 21st century were defined by the so-called Axis of Evil -- the phrase George W. Bush applied to Iraq, Iran, and North Korea for their support of terrorists -- the next 15 years will likely be defined by the Access of Evil, as state and non-state cyberterrorists use technology to bypass our defenses in ways that damage businesses, lives, and nations.
If a motivated hacker targeted you, you literally would not know you had been attacked until after it was over. From a skilled hacker's point of view, you have glass windows, glass doors, the lights are off, there's nobody home and you left the back door open.
Even when you shop with the latest, chip-laden credit card, retailers' computers will still store your card number in easily readable form, leaving it as vulnerable as in the past to criminal theft.
The unprecedented rise of the connected age, like any big societal change, leads to unexpected and dramatic questions about safety and security. But the concept of security requires innovators and their products' users to work together.
Do not give anyone remote access to your computer! If someone calls you, claiming to be a Tech Support Guru who is positive you have a virus, do not believe it!
While the risk of cyber attacks is growing, it's important for small and medium-sized businesses to keep perspective and focus on the real threats that are most likely to target their operations.
One conclusion directly related to cyber vulnerabilities is learning from how the monetary, banking and financial systems adapted over the decades to fend off crooks and scamsters. A second conclusion is that "ready, fire, aim" is not always a good response to every crisis.
The Sony Hack was not even one of the ten largest hacks of 2014. Though large, it actually only ranks as the 33rd largest of the year in terms of number of records breached. EBay actually suffered the largest data breach of 2014 (and the second largest since 2005) with more than 150 million records compromised.
With all the data breaches and website hacking that have been going on, how on earth could big brands like AT&T, The New York Times, and Macy's needlessly expose their users' passwords?
In that bygone era of punched cards and tabulating machines, a computer disaster might have been a dropped box of cards. We couldn't do anything very exotic with these simple machines; the Internet and home computers were in no one's crystal ball, but neither was the worry of getting hacked.
Thinking we'd finally done everything we needed to do to play the stinking game, we turned back to the Xbox, which had frozen up completely. No worries. We turned it off and let it reboot, but when it came back on, it immediately froze up again.
Santa huddled with his legal team, the elves and Mrs. Claus wondering whether to bow to the group's demands. Cancel Christmas? Sure, the holiday had descended into a blur of Labor Day Christmas sales. But foregoing his yearly journey would mean disappointing millions of children.
To mitigate the damage and restore confidence, Sony Pictures executives need to develop a plan so this is unlikely to reoccur. While this is easier said than done, IT solutions are available to thwart hackers.
As bad as Sony's cave-in, though, is the ridiculously false "shock" at the hackers' success in exposing the emails. There is incredible naiveté from everyone involved.
It seems like there were more companies that had privacy-related problems in 2014 than didn't. And the lucky ones that didn't "get got" were separated by only one or two degrees from those that did. As we look ahead to 2015, I see a mix of old privacy concerns along with a few emerging dangers.