Future cyber threats to cause more headaches than Heartbleed

By CSIRO

5 May 2014

3 minute read

By Hannah Scott

For average Australians it’s probably safe to say cyber security isn’t something that’s thought about often. Maybe it should be.

Think about the things you take for granted, like having electricity to power your home and having access to crucial health services.  Imagine if this was all compromised because of a cyber attack that could shut down crucial infrastructure.  In seconds, your local energy company could be unable to deliver power to your home and your confidential health records, bank account details and passwords could be compromised.

As the electricity grid moves towards a smart grid we face the risk of a cyber attack that causes major power outages across the country.

As the electricity grid moves towards a smart grid we face the risk of a cyber attack that causes major power outages across the country.

Heartbleed is a recent cyber attack where a major internet security flaw allowed attackers to gain access to encrypted passwords, credit card details, and other data on trusted websites including Facebook, Gmail, Instagram, and Pinterest.

The attack was made on a certain type of secure access software which allowed cyber attackers to gather personal information over what was considered to be a secure connection or site.  It’s considered to be one of the first instances of a widespread attack against something that we all take for granted as being secure. James Deverell, from our Futures team, said we’re at risk of incidences such as Heartbleed happening again.

“Not only are we becoming increasingly vulnerable because of the wide range of services that we are moving onto technology platforms, but we are also seeing the nature of these types of cyber attacks changing.”

“For example cyber attacks are becoming increasingly more sophisticated as more tools available and it’s very likely that we will continue to see these types of vulnerabilities continue into the future.”

As technology use is on the rise and as we become more technology dependant for services, we’ll continue to see these kinds of vulnerabilities increase.  We’ve released a new report on the future of cyber security, highlighting a number of different vulnerabilities and threats of future attacks.

In the future of cyber attacks, we could expect to see anything from individuals and “Script Kiddies” who are trying to outdo each other in a game of seeing how much damage they can cause, to more serious acts of  “Hacktivism” and corporate and government espionage.  Each of these threats are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and we need to be prepared as a nation to respond to them.

Future cyber threats could cause more headaches than Heartbleed. Image: xkcd

Core Australian industries such as energy, mining, healthcare and IT services all have vulnerabilities that can potentially be exploited through cyber security, the cost of this estimated to be as high as $2 billion annually.

“Our work across digital productivity, computational informatics and big data analytics will be necessary to address the risks and vulnerability of attacks. We want to keep sectors like Health, Government and Energy safe from cyber attacks in the future,” said Deverall.

 

Enabling Australia’s Digital Future: Cyber security trends and implications is available to download on our website.

Media: Samantha Lucia, Communication Manager, Information Sciences: samantha.lucia@csiro.au, 0467 768 960
Sarah Klistorner, Communications Manager, Digital Productivity and Services Flagship: sarah.klistorner@csiro.au, 0423 350 515