In a Way, Cyber Security is Nothing New

Cyber security incidents seem to be a constant source of news these days and safeguarding organizational data assets has become a key business concern. If you take a historical view of this topic, though, you soon realize that the phenomenon is nothing new; keeping assets safe from attack has been a concern since the dawn of commerce-related activities.

For more than two thousand years, businesses have been constantly engaged with finding solutions to emerging threats. Caravans travelling across the Silk Road were under continuous threat of tribal bandits and warlords. Traders asked for protection from local kings by securing safe passage agreements and armed guard support. Explorers on sea journeys were attacked by pirates, resulting in the development of naval forces to better protect the ability of each country’s merchants to get their goods to markets and transport their gold back home. And Western settlers resorted to hiring armed guards and law enforcement deputies to assist them with a safe passage through lawless territories. As population centers were established, shopkeepers and tradesmen began securing their establishments by installing hard-to-break locks and barriers. All of these activities formed the basis for today’s modern security and surveillance systems.

Over the years, we have learned that if you have an asset of value, it needs to be protected. No matter how safe and sound your surroundings appear, all societies inherently contain a percentage of the population that would rather take advantage of vulnerabilities and gain control of valuable assets by simply stealing them than do the hard work of producing those assets themselves.

Recent advancements in information technologies have created many opportunities for organizations to conduct commerce in a highly efficient manner. This, in turn, has created a significant amount of data that is a valuable asset for organizations. This data resides in IT-enabled operational systems, upon which most organizations have become fully dependent.

These systems, ranging from e-commerce and financial applications to productivity-related systems, are attracting the attention of the same types of bandits, pirates, and highway robbers seen by previous generations. The only difference is that in this age of silent commerce, their criminal activities are in a digital form. They are hard to see, but when they hit, the impact is felt in a very real and catastrophic manner.

Similar to earlier generations before us, it is the responsibility of today’s business owners and leaders to ensure their organizational information assets and capabilities are properly safeguarded from this new generation of cyber criminals and hackers. Similar to solutions employed at earlier stages of commerce, it will require an awareness of the situation and the deployment of the best available tools and techniques to remedy these evolving threats.

Sassan S. Hejazi can be reached at Email or 215.441.4600.

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