It is hardly surprising that in a world increasingly driven by technology, malicious attacks on computer networks are fast becoming the greatest threat to governments, businesses, organisations and individuals.
What is astonishing, then, is the lack of investment and effort in protecting valuable and sensitive data.
Australia has been awash with evidence of the need to stop the bytes pouring into villainous clutches. In recent days, we’ve learned: the federal parliament’s system was hacked, with the most -likely suspect widely seen as China; the databases of the ALP, Liberals and Nationals were then raided, again with China in the frame; a Melbourne hospital’s patient records were corrupted and held to ransom, but data remains missing despite cyber currency being paid by the hospital; and carmaker Toyota’s email system was sabotaged. The Victorian government is investigating the hospital attack.
Motivations include geo-political ascendancy, economic advantage, extortion and sheer malevolence. Other recent local victims include the Bureau of Meteorology and Australian National University. Perhaps the most high-profile international attack was by Russia, which used a range of techno techniques to seek to influence the 2016 US presidential election in favour of the unexpected winner, Donald Trump.
The chief of technology giant IBM, Ginni Rometty, says: ‘‘Cybercrime is the greatest threat to every company in the world.” Her warning is echoed by US Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen: ‘‘Cyber attacks in terms of their breadth and scope of possible consequences now exceed the risk of physical attacks.’’