Dallas – The world has entered an era of cyber insecurity, security specialist PW Singer said at the global summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) taking place in Dallas this week.
“We are now in the new digital age where the consumer is at the centre, but also the target,” explained Singer.
It is estimated that 40 trillion e-mails are sent each year and there exist more than 30 trillion websites. Every second 9 new pieces of malware are discovered and 97% of Fortune 500 companies have admitted that they had been hacked at some point.
About 60% of online attacks were aimed at SMEs and the estimated value of data breaches last year were half a billion dollars. It is estimated that this value would increase to $2trn by 2019.
“One could say cybercrime is one of the fastest growing businesses,” said Singer.
In his view, the travel and tourism industry is often the target of cyber criminals because the industry holds massive amounts of valuable information on customers, employees and other businesses, which is of interest to hackers.
This information would either be sold on the black market or used for espionage (for instance hacking a hotel to track the movement of certain people).
Singer said there have even been cases where port systems were hacked so that smugglers could move their goods through without inspections.
“Hackers may also want to ‘punish’ you for something you have said, for whom you deal with or it could even be a disgruntled employee who did not get a promotion,” said Singer.
At the same time, it is estimated that only a third of businesses has encryption systems.
“More than 50% of the world’s population are now on the internet and with more businesses coming online, the low hanging fruit are increasing for hackers,” said Singer.
“At the same time the ‘internet of things’ – the use of smart cars, smart fridges and more – has created a new landscape of targets as hackers can now not only steal information, but can cause damage by, for instance blocking a car, hacking drones or hacking industrial controls.”
In his view, companies will have to communicate with each other and with governments in order to make the cyber security eco system smarter. On the other hand, it is estimated that only a third of the boards of companies talk to their cyber security expert more than once a year.
“The key is resilience. How you can pop up quickly once you are hacked and shrug off the hacker,” said Singer.
“We cannot solve this issue unless we view it as a private and public problem and one of ‘basic hygene’ where all involved must be taught to respect everyone else they connect with.”
* Fin24 is a guest of the WTTC at its global summit.