Could Russian hackers reach into your life?

Chris PallettJanuary 2017

Fake news, high profile hacks and suggestions that foreign powers influenced recent US elections. Chris Pallett FBCS, Managing Director of Bespoke Computing, wonders where the internet is heading next.

Who would have thought, just a few short months ago, that we'd be looking at a world which would be hanging on every character of a Twitter presidency?!

And part of the reason for that, just might be the way that presidency was achieved. State-sponsored online activity is now a hot topic. The Russians, according to our own GCHQ, have become masters of political interference through hacking.

The election of Trump has forced more of our leaders and media to focus more closely on this issue and now it's a topic that has gained huge momentum and one which can no longer be treated lightly, by individual or businesses.

It's not just a matter of breaking into servers to steal data, it's become about widespread misinformation, through creating or supporting fake websites which spread lies and misinformation. Some people are only too willing to be pawns in this activity because the internet traffic it generates brings them traffic which equals ad revenue.

They are backed, apparently, by warehouses of trolls - those people willing to stir argument and foment anger in online discussion, either for their own amusement or perhaps these more sinister, state-sponsored ends.

We're not just talking about high level geo-politics. It affects us all when you can't be sure that what you're reading is genuine. And even though we can be smart enough to stick to reliable news sources, it's quite clear that many people are ready to believe whatever rubbish they see on Facebook because it's been shared by someone they're connected to. That has a huge viral effect which we're now starting to realise can sway the election of the US president.

It also affects us all when our own MPs can quite easily be targets of hacking and external influence. Just how much was the EU referendum campaign stirred by foreign meddling?

It's not a huge leap for an attack on your MP to follow a trail back you personally or your business.

If you've had email contact, who's attention are you going to come to if they're reading your representative's messages? Or do you work in a sector which someone would benefit from disrupting, however small a cog you think you are?

The logical defence to these goings-on seems to be much better ways of identifying each other online, behind end-to-end encrypted communications. Too much still goes on in the open and too many of us are still blithely unprepared, and our businesses unprotected.

Our feeling at Bespoke Computing is that this year is going to (has to?) see far more focus on identity and security online and business has to lead that charge, both because it is a clear target for these attackers and because it has the ability to educate staff and thereby increase the national understanding of these issues.

It's bad enough that a Tweet can cause markets to tumble and destroy decades old diplomatic conventions in just 140 characters. Getting caught in the crossfire through being unprepared is going to cause many people huge regret in the months to come.

We're not in the business of scaremongering, but we believe people really need to be prepared for anything!

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