ICYMI: Questions on cyber warfare, start-up money and helping out charities

This week's In Case You Missed column considers the possibility of cyber warfare, the money reaching cyber security start-ups and how charity can start at home for InfoSec practitioners.

ICYMI: Questions on cyber warfare, start-up money and helping out charities
ICYMI: Questions on cyber warfare, start-up money and helping out charities

Russia sanctions raise questions on cyber warfare

The crash of the Malaysian Airlines airplane MH17 has dominated front-page headlines for the last week, and has fuelled talk on sanctions against the Russian government or even Russian companies.

Professor Mike Jackson – a computer security expert at Birmingham University – said in a statement on Wednesday that countries typically respond to such sanctions by preventing the supply of certain products, but warned that Russia's cyber capabilities should be noted.

“As EU governments discuss ways in which they can toughen up sanctions against Russia today, they need to be mindful of the ways in which Russia could retaliate,” said Jackson, noting cyber spies operating in eastern Europe, and even being involved in a BAE attack some years ago.

“If Russia is pushed too far will they choose to deploy cyber warfare?”

Yet in the same week as hactivism group Anonymous was said to have waged ‘cyber war' against Israel, and similar efforts seen in Iraq, some have doubted the reality of cyber warfare, questioning if it's a tactic to drive more spending in the market.

Thomas Rid, professor of security studies at King's College London, said that such claims are often ‘hype', although he did remind readers of Stuxnet and the attacks against Estonia in 2008.

“If anything, it is remarkable how little cyber-attack activity we have seen in Ukraine. I mean Russia is the El Dorado of cyber-crime. And they can't even pull off a cyber-attack worth mentioning?” Rid told SC.

“It's safe to say that there's significant frustration from inside the intelligence community because there is so much hype, and so many people overstating what's happening,” adding that there is money to be made by such hype.

Money rolls in for security start-ups

If you needed proof that information security is a booming industry to be in right now, PrivCo, a financial data provider on privately-held companies, has given a pretty good snapshot.

Speaking to CNNMoney earlier this week, the firm said that venture capitalists have invested US$ 788 million in cyber security start-ups this year, up 74 percent year-on-year from US$ 452 million in 2012 and from US$ 160 million in 2011.

PrivCo estimates that the funding will be dispersed among about 40 start-ups in the early stages of funding.

ICO fine give stark reminder of SMB problems

The UK watchdog The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) confirmed on Thursday that it had served a £150,000 monetary penalty to online travel services company, Think W3 Limited, for a data breach which saw a hacker steal more than a million credit and debit card records in December 2012.

The  fine – issued as result of a breach of the 1998 Data Protection Act – comes after an insecure coding on the website of business subsidiary Essential Travel Ltd allowed an unidentified hacker carry out a SQL Injection Attack to extract 1,163,996 credit and debit card records. Of these records, 430,599 were identified as current and 733,397 as expired.

Cardholder data had not been deleted since 2006 and there had been no security checks since the system had been installed.

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