While new technology and increased Internet access brings with it lots of positive aspects, you can’t overlook the threat of cyber attacks – as evidenced by a very headline rich 2011. The repercussions alone can be devastating to an organization lacking the infrastructure to detect and counter such attacks. To put this into perspective, take Algeria for example. Internet access in Algeria has grown exponentially during the past decade, reaching over four million households, cybercafés, as well as many different public and private institutions. This phenomenon has undoubtedly benefited the indigenous population by exposing them to vast amounts of information and the ability to communicate worldwide, but it has also brought with it the dangers of cyber attacks. Let’s reacquaint ourselves with the reasons we need to be more vigilant in increasing awareness of cyber attacks by looking at what is going on in Algeria.
Despite laws enacted in 2001 to combat digital-related incidents, cyber crime is still pervasive in Algeria. This is due not only to a lack of detection tools, awareness and training courses, but also to the negligence of private and public institutions in protecting their intellectual properties online. In 2010, the Center for Judicial and Judiciary Research (a branch of the Algerian Department of Justice) began developing and implementing cyber security laws. Until then, the field went mostly unregulated. Since 2010, 12 cases have been reported and to-date there has been eighty-eight cases brought to Justice.
Technological innovations in the world of cyber criminals have made the traditional bank robbery seem almost prehistoric. Computer and Internet access now replace the gun; surreptitious locations replace the need for an actual physical presence to confront the victim. Hacking, phishing, spear phishing, spamming, 419 scams, malware, web piracy and cyber terrorism, can all take place from the comfort of one’s cubicle – far from and invisible to the intended target.
A variety of those cyber crimes mentioned above are already affecting Algeria. In 2010, individuals suspected of operating from China infiltrated Algeria Telecom and hacked their servers, thus gaining control over their internet traffic in order to monitor digital communications among its citizenry.
There are other reasons why cyber criminals thrive. First, many law enforcement agencies lack the latest technological tools essential to tackling the problem. Second, the victims lack basic IT skills and an awareness of what has happened to them until it is too late. Yet if we are to address the growing threat of cyber crimes, there needs to be significant improvement in both of these areas. Expertise in the many forms of cyber attacks, training the audience on computer security, and a campaign of educational awareness must be instituted across private and public organizations. Information fliers, posters, e-mails, and videos are simple but vital tools in the war against cyber crime.
Now step back from the fact that these things are happening in Algeria, because while it may seem we are leaps and bounds in front of Algeria on the technology spectrum, the same holds true for organizations and consumers in the United States. We are so enamored with the cool new technologies that allow us to connect and share information from anywhere that we often forget that there are online criminals out there counting on us to have our guard down. We can’t simply rely on technology to protect us completely, because the criminals have found ways around technology – human error. The more people, employees and senior management understand the complexities of the cyber environment, the better off they will be in protecting their personal security and the security of their organization. Don’t become complacent with cyber security; make sure you and your organization are fully aware of the dangers and how to address them.