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Cyber security concerns keep mounting

Oct. 2, 2012
Here’s a worrisome set of stats for truckers chew on. Roughly 90% of some 1,000 American adults polled by JZ Analytics on behalf of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) last month believe that a safe and secure Internet network is crucial to U.S. economic security. Yet that same majority (90%) also feels they aren’t completely feel safe online – not exactly the sort of dichotomy you want to see in a poll examining such an important topic.
Here’s a worrisome set of stats for truckers chew on. Roughly 90% of some 1,000 American adults polled by JZ Analytics on behalf of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) last month believe that a safe and secure Internet network is crucial to U.S. economic security. Yet that same majority (90%) also feels they aren’t completely feel safe online – not exactly the sort of dichotomy you want to see in a poll examining such an important topic.

I’ve discussed why cyber security is so important to the trucking industry in this space before, but as this is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (didn’t know that, did you?) it’s wise to take a fresh look at this critical topic.

I mean, let’s face it: everything is going digital, much as myself and similarly-styled Luddites hate it. Almost every company now – from banks to power utilities and your friendly local tax collector – is doing everything in its power to get customers to pay bills online. Highway toll collection is increasing going all-electronic, as are speeding and red light enforcement efforts. Even my children’s school textbooks are moving to an online format. (But will they get a “no homework” pass if the power goes out, one wonders …)

Yet all these digital networks and electronic databases are anything but safe. Identity theft is rampant and seems to be worsening all the time as (you guessed it) crooks use ever-more sophisticated technology to conduct their crimes. That’s even before you start delving into national cyber security issues, such as the recent China-based hack attempt on the White House.

Look at the results of security system provide nCircle’s 2012 Federal Information Security Oversight and Legislation Trend study released last month for examples of the cyber security problems our nation faces.

The company surveyed over 100 people serving in the federal information technology [IT] security ranks, including senior management, IT operations, security professionals, and risk and audit managers from government agencies and contractor organizations.

They were asked to provide their opinions on the current threat landscape in the federal government and to give insights into information security oversight and legislation. Here are some of the results:

  • Of the three distinct categories of attackers, 46% of respondents believe cyber crime is the most significant security threat, 40% believe nation-states are the most significant security threat, and 14% believe “hacktivism” (committing computer hacking crimes as a form of political protest) threats are the most significant.
  • Respondents believe that advanced persistent threats pose a greater risk to the public sector.
  • 93% of respondents believe data breaches will increase this year.
  • 58% of respondents believe government should not regulate cyber security for the private sector.
  • 70% say proposed legislation will not improve cyber security in the private sector.
  • At least one-third of agencies report they have not yet participated in a CyberStat Review session. Only 8% of those who have participated in a CyberStat review say it has improved their agency’s overall security performance.
  • Limited budgets are the greatest challenge for the implementation of continuous monitoring programs.
  • 49% of respondents recognize that their agency’s continuous monitoring efforts to date have not resulted in measurable reduction of risk.

Now let’s return to the NCSA cyber security survey noted at the top of this post. That one examined broader issues and trends among the American population, and although the survey is only based on the responses of 1,000 people, the findings are still instructive for an array of businesses, including trucking:

  • 59% say their job is dependent on a safe and secure Internet and 78% say losing Internet access for 48 consecutive hours would be disruptive with 33% saying it would be extremely disruptive.
  • Over one in four (26%) received notification by a business, online service provider or organization that their personally identifiable information (e.g. password, credit card number, email address, etc.) was lost or compromised because of a data breach.
  • Nearly half of the respondents (49%) use their smart phones to access the Internet, which is a 6% increase from the last year.
  • 64% feel their smart phones are safe from hackers; however – and this points to a strong disconnect – nearly the same amount (58%) of current smart phone users have never backed up their devices by storing the information or data elsewhere.
  • Further underscoring this disconnect, over three-fifths (64%) of Americans have never installed security software or apps to protect against viruses or malware. Considering the rapid growth in smart phone users, it is imperative that they take extra measures to provide the highest level of protection possible to keep their devices safe.
  • 61% of respondents feel safest accessing the Internet using a laptop or desktop with only 9% feeling safest using a smart phone and 3% using a tablet. Yet only 22% access the Internet using a desktop or laptop
  • Many Americans think that connecting to an unsecured wireless network puts them most at risk to cybercrime or loss of personal information (30%), followed by not having any or enough security software (22%).
  • Regarding the new “Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) to work movement,roughly half (48%) are allowed to use a personal tablet, smart phone or laptop to perform job functions while 31% can connect to their work network using these personal devices.
  • However, at the same time, 44% of respondents say their employers do not have formal BYOD policies. And when employers fail to put proper policies in place to protect their data infrastructures, they not only put their information at risk, but they also leave their networks susceptible to cyber threats, NCSA stresses.
  • Finally, a majority of respondents (86%) say they want to be notified if a trusted third party (e.g. Internet service provider [ISP], financial institution, e-commerce site) knew that their computer was infected with a virus or malware with 66% strongly agreeing.

    The upshot of all this is quite simple to distill, according to Michael Kaiser (at right), NCSA’s executive director. “The Internet is central to our daily lives and our economy,” he emphasizes. “It is a shared resource for so many of our daily activities, which is why protecting it is a shared responsibility.

    To that end, NCSA offers five simple pieces of advice:

    • Keep a Clean Machine. Keep security software current: Having the latest security software, Web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats.
    • Own your Online Presence. When available, set the privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing. It's ok to limit who you share information with.
    • Make Passwords Long, Strong and Unique. Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password. Have a different password for each account.
    • Protect all Devices that Connect to the Internet. Along with computers, smart phones, gaming systems, and other Web-enabled devices also need protection from viruses and malware.
    • Connect with Care. Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots and when banking and shopping, check to be sure the sites security is enabled.

    “Everyone should take security measures, understand the consequences of their actions and behaviors and enjoy the benefits of the Internet,” Kaiser added. “If we each do our part to stay safe online the Internet will continue to become a safer and more secure environment.”

    And with ever more information being transferred to electronic mediums in the trucking business, that’s advice carriers should heed. 

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