How tech is a vital weapon against cyber information warfare

Technology’s potential to be a positive force is limitless. We’ve already seen how it’s able to transform industries, businesses and communities as restrictions of the pandemic have hit. But as powerful it can be, it is also open to being misused. Disinformation, fake news and other types of information warfare are never far from the media conversation, as well as its ability to mislead and distort critical debate about elections and current affairs around the world.

It’s easier than ever for us to be monitored and tracked so the definition of privacy is constantly being redefined. In an age of ‘surveillance capitalism’, there’s a not-so-metaphorical minefield out there when it comes to safeguarding our data. Businesses must ensure they remain on the right side of ethics when it comes to using data compliantly and securely, and there’s an increasing onus on data protection and cyber security technologies to maintain the integrity of our human rights, in the face of weaponised information.

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Data protection as a human right

Data protection has become a fundamental human right in recent years. In 1981, the Council of Europe passed the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to the Automatic Processing of Personal Data – or Convention 108 for short. The treaty cleared the way to the first European Union-wide data protection laws, which are now covered under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The challenge of data protection, particularly when it goes wrong, continues to hit the headlines, despite the financial and reputational risks involved – but once again, technology is emerging as a help here.

Technology as a helping hand

The ease of which disinformation can be spread, and information warfare can be wrought through technology, is concerning. But at the same time, it’s also an effective weapon in responding to the threat from cyber criminals.

Ransomware is a choice weapon of cyber criminals that has become especially powerful and lucrative over the past 18 months. A malware created specifically to encrypt and lock access to files and storage is one of the most common threats facing organisations across all locations and industries.

Some of the other market observations we also reached in Veeam’s recent whitepaper on the topic was that the top modes of entry with this kind of malware is typically either through phishing emails, remote access flaws, or exploiting vulnerabilities. The end game with these efforts is typically about extorting money but it can also be about seeking out production and backup files, leaving organisations with little choice but to comply with the cyber criminals and their demands.

The industry is responding to this as cyber criminals become increasingly powerful, and team up on attacks. They’re forming their own alliances and armies — but digital transformation works both ways, and it’s not only businesses that have made great gains in the ways they’re using technologies. Cyber criminals have too — cyberattacks on cloud systems have spiked 250% from 2019 to 2020, according to a report from Aqua Security.

With this threat not going away any time soon, businesses will need to work closely with technology partners that are not only focused on the data protection needs of today, but also planning ahead to what future cloud and security priorities might emerge – all while carefully mitigating the activities of cyber criminals.

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Getting serious about data welfare

Using data ethically and securely is critically important in a digital age, where growing amounts are being created every day. Doing so is no longer just an optional extra, but a human right all of its own.
But too many businesses still have a lax approach to data security, and it’s inadvertently aiding cyber criminal efforts. The long list of fines handed out by the ICO is testament to the fact there isn’t enough being done to protect citizens.

While reputational damage and fines can be big deterrents, data breaches are still a regular occurrence. Data protection’s plight relies on businesses taking a proactive stance on this, but once again, technology can step in here and play an important enabling role.

Irrespective of your business size, you need to look for modern data protection solutions that factor in data security, compliance and customer privacy requirements from the very start. Read customer testimonials, conduct your own research and look to respected awards bodies to help in that decision, rather than just relying on a vendor’s word that their solutions are secure. Maintaining customer trust will always be a core priority, but never more so than now, when so much uncertainty still exists. Being concerned about the welfare of their data should be the last thing customers have to be thinking about.

Upholding human rights, and pushing back against cyber information warfare, will require a technological solution, but those that are most adept at harnessing these, will be the greatest winners.

Written by Edwin Weijdema, global technologist, product strategy at Veeam

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