Summertime, and the hackers are busy...

It’s summertime, and as ever much of the business world has settled into a heat- and holiday-induced lull (even while the rest of the planet is not quite so peaceful). But while executives – IT and otherwise – take time out, other elements of the IT industry are definitely not catching up on their tans.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  August 21, 2006

|~||~||~|It’s summertime, and as ever much of the business world has settled into a heat- and holiday-induced lull (even while the rest of the planet is not quite so peaceful). But while executives – IT and otherwise – take time out, other elements of the IT industry are definitely not catching up on their tans. The start of this month saw the regular Black Hat/Def Con events in Las Vegas, possibly the nearest thing many hackers have to a place of pilgrimage. Security professionals and hackers compete to come up with the most interesting, innovative or devastating way to breach IT security systems – and the IT underworld watches, and makes copious notes. In the meantime, the US Department of Homeland Security has taken the unusual step of declaring the latest round of Microsoft Internet Explorer bugs to be threats to national security. When the organisation charged with preventing terrorist attacks on American soil becomes interested in web browser flaws, it’s probably time for organisations to start taking these security problems more seriously – however they are regarded at the moment. Here in the Middle East, phishing scams, ATM card cloning and other IT-related crime continues. While the levels of commitment and expertise these attacks demonstrate still lag behind cyber-criminals’ efforts in the US and Europe, they are becoming more professional by the month. So while the legitimate IT sector has had a quiet summer, aside from an impressive round of mergers and acquisitions, it’s the not-so-legitimate elements which IT and network managers need to be worried about. The danger is, that compared to previous incarnations of malware which made themselves painfully apparent, newer varieties will sit there quietly, transmitting personal information or sending out spam emails. Just because IT-oriented criminals don’t keep office hours is not a reason to deny the IT department a holiday, of course. But, now that organisations across the world have made the effort to make their services available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, these same organisations must make sure their ability to respond to computer-borne threats is unimpaired. This is as much about organisational protocols, contingency planning and common sense as it is about investing in the latest security technology – probably more so, since technology can be largely useless unless it has been deployed effectively. This may all seem very obvious, but even organisations with plans for out-of-hours emergencies may find themselves lacking due to one absence too many, or a plan section which became invalid after the last departmental reorganisation. Talk of hacking disasters, organisational confusion and an inability to respond is all a bit of a ‘doomsday’ scenario – the chances of all of it happening all at once are pretty slim, probably. But, when everyone is back after the summer vacation, it might be worth giving the plans a quick look over.||**||

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