Nato fighter jets flying

NATO vs Cyber Crime: The $1 Trillion Industry

What does NATO’s fight against cyber crime mean for businesses in the payments industry?

Military activities have been prominent in the news recently. Asides from the fighting in Kobani, last week NATO fighter jets intercepted Russian military aircraft that were conducting manoeuvres within range of European airspace.

What rarely makes the news is the digital skirmishing that goes on around the servers that sustain the Western Alliance. NATO has recently claimed that they detect 200 million events of suspicious activity every day related to their systems. Only a small number of these transpire to be serious attacks, but the unit was still dealing with roughly five confirmed cyber attacks per week in 2013.

“The threat landscape is vast, from malware and hacktivists to organised criminals and state-sponsored attacks,” says Ian West, a former RAF officer who now heads up NATO’s cyber security services. “Things that we thought impossible can be done… With cyber attacks, defenders are trying to find the needle in the haystack.”

The impact on businesses

Cyber terrorism is now treated in military and political circles as seriously as conventional attacks with bombs and tanks. This extremely bad news for businesses, particularly those who handle large online payments – if NATO is vulnerable, then 99 per cent of large businesses will also be at risk if they become the focus of committed hacktivists.

And NATO is vulnerable. Hannes Krause, Estonia’s Assistant Defence Counsellor at NATO, recently said, “The nature of cyber defence is that we are constantly behind the adversaries and not just two but more like 20 steps.”

Cyber attacks have developed from scattered approaches into specifically targeted assaults. Google, JP Morgan, Lockheed Martin – even the French Economics Ministry – have all been hacked in recent years, and all are organisations that were previously thought to be safe from such attacks.

Furthermore, cyber crime is due to get much worse. Why? Because it’s profitable – estimates put the annual profits from cyber crime as high as $1 trillion, which is comparable to the size of the global narcotics trade.

However, it’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind. West closed his statement reminding us that ‘If a business gets attacked, it can go under. If our systems at NATO fail, people may die.’ Next month, NATO will be conducting a three day cyber defence exercise with more than 400 high-profile experts – businesses that handle online payments should pay close attention to the outcome, in case it has the potential to impact on their own security decisions.

If you want to learn more about how you can protect your business from cyber attack, you should attend The Cyber Security Show 2015.

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