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Cyberattacks are a real threat, as three examples reveal

The number of cyberattacks and cybersecurity vulnerabilities reported in the news recently shows us that all infrastructures are vulnerable.

A man uses a laptop at a coffee shop in downtown Hanoi. - AFP
A man uses a laptop at a coffee shop in downtown Hanoi. - AFP

Cyberattacks seem to make the headlines each and every day. This is due to a combination of weak systems, insider errors, and a relentless assault by criminal entities. Many of these entities are based in countries outside of the one being targeted and the actors at play may sometimes be in receipt of state support.

To highlight the extent of the problem, Digital Journal provides roundup of three recent incidences of significance across three very different economic sectors.

Farms and farming

The Crystal Valley ransomware attack was the second farming cooperative attacked in the U.S. during September (earlier NEW Cooperative was targeted by the same BlackMatter ransomware). The well-known farming organization disclosed that it was targeted with a ransomware attack on Sunday that led them to shut down IT systems, preventing payments using Visa, Mastercard, and Discover credit cards.

This attack again highlights the need for a new way of thinking when it comes to ransomware protection. This includes ensuring data immutability and improving education within a firm, to avoid suspicious links (as might originate from email) from being selected.

According to the U.S. government: “There are 16 critical infrastructure sectors whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.”

South African government

Moving to a different country and something of greater impact and societal importance, the South African Justice Department has disclosed a ransomware attack, the second on a state institution in the last two months. The breach, which occurred on September 6, left all of the department’s information systems encrypted and unavailable. All electronic services provided by the department were affected—including email, the departmental website, the issuing of letters of authority and bail services.

This incident followed a Brazilian National Treasury attack, highlighting how ransomware attacks against governments are becoming more frequent.

Microsoft

Even the mighty Microsoft is not immune to cyber-issues. The Verge reported that Microsoft’s Azure Cosmos DB database has contained vulnerabilities for two years. More than 3,300 of Microsoft’s customers, some of which are Fortune 500 companies like Coca Cola and ExxonMobil, have had their data left exposed since 2019.

Microsoft made a statement via email that they are not aware of any customer data being accessed because of the vulnerability. However, when a tech company with a name as big as Microsoft reports cybersecurity vulnerabilities, customers often grow concerned and are left feeling uneasy and unprotected.

This means a focus on businesses and personal user security, including ensuring data is backed-up and that adequate security features like firewalls are in place.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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