“Businesses are so focused on cyber attacks by organised crime that it is easy for them to ignore the possibility of being targeted by groups wanting to make a political point, possibly even with backing from a hostile government,” says Malcolm Marshall, UK and global lead in KPMG’s cyber security practice.
“Over the past five years the international business community has seen a number of incidents where websites have been hacked so that political messages can be uploaded where they will receive widespread exposure – the Syrian Electronic Army is just one example, amongst many. Hacktivists are certainly more active during periods of international tension, but it’s the next step that businesses should be wary of.
“Cyber attacks are becoming part of international conflict and it seems that probing cyber attacks are likely to be the first phase in the hostile phase of future conflicts. The well-worn phrase about who has their ‘finger on the button’ has taken on a new meaning and this is something that banks, financial institutions and global businesses need to consider. After all, the ability to disrupt electronic trade, divert funds, or overload IT systems so that transactions cannot be completed, can have an effect that goes far beyond the geographies where disputes are raging.
“It doesn’t mean organisations should panic and ‘bunker down’. What it does mean is that, just as scenarios are planned to help deal with major physical security breaches, organisations need to put plans in place that recognise we now operate in a world without cyber borders. If they can successfully build these defences and take proactive steps to protect themselves, they will reduce the chances of inadvertently becoming embroiled in a wider dispute.”