HACKERS: CAN THEY BE BEATEN?
The rise of the internet has transformed hacking into an opportunity for crime, activism and political interference. So who are the hackers and can they be stopped?
The last few months have been busy for European politics, with Austria, the Netherlands, France and the UK all heading to the polls. Each one of these elections was preceded by fears that hostile powers, acting online, would seek to manipulate the outcome of the elections. These fears came closest to being realised in France, where eventual winner Emmanuel Macron and his En Marche! party were victim to a 9GB leak of emails, just 48 hours before the voting took place. Things are little different across the Atlantic, with four legislative committees, as well as the FBI, investigating alleged Russian influence over the US election, including the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s emails. In the UK, hacking was in the news when the WannaCry ransomware worm crippled computer systems in 40 NHS hospitals in May. In the wake of each attack, politicians spoke urgently of a need to ‘regulate’ the internet. Across the West, democracy and freedom are under sustained attack, and at the heart of the battle is our grasp on technology.
Maybe that sounds like hyperbole, or even the stuff of a movie trailer. Well, consider this: the average person in the UK spends 25 hours a week online and has between 27 and 40 online accounts. There are set to be 8.4 billion connected devices in the world by the end of this year – 20 billion by 2020 – and last year in the US alone there were more than 1,000 recorded data breaches. Hacking isn’t just about pinching passwords any more: the geeks have truly inherited the Earth.
“There’s no question that there is more malware now than there has ever been,” says David Emms, principal security researcher at antivirus and internet security specialists Kaspersky Labs. “And the volume is growing massively. We analyse a million objects [of malicious code] per day in our virus lab, and more than 60 per cent of our detections are of code that has never seen before.”