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Email treats and a cuckoo’s egg

The 1980s were a wild west feast of exploration and invention for computer boffins. In those heady years before e-mail and the world wide web were born or embraced, networked computers were emerging as a thing.

Clusters of computers connected by phone lines were fast becoming a power tool for global collaboration and rapid data transfers.

A seventy five cent blackhole

Astronomer and IT programmer Chris Stoll discovered a blackhole of mammoth proportions. However this wasn’t observed in a galaxy far away, spied through the lens of a Californian University telescope.

In his book “The Cuckoo’s Egg”, Stoll describes how what began as a hunt for an errant 75 cents in an accounting program, exploded into a high stakes espionage drama involving the FBI and the CIA.

A conceit of complacency

Spanning the globe and involving the theft of sensitive nuclear data and military secrets from US military computers, Stoll watched on perplexed, as a very persistent hacker exploited—you guessed it—complacency! On a huge scale. Computer security? Who needs that?

Like a stealthy burglar doggedly pushing at windows and doors, this innovative Hanover-based hacker with a drug habit, entered so many “back doors” left open.

Apathy and ignorance

Often Stoll found that these exposed computers were naked to the world. By manufacturers default, they had no passwords; if they did, they were easily guessed words from the English dictionary. Added to this there was no quick way to trace modem calls back to their source in attempts to nab the hacker.

Military bases, intelligence agencies and universities all wallowed in a self-indulgent conceit. Somehow they assumed they were immune from infection or unauthorised access. They failed to heed repeated warnings from an increasingly anxious university-based astronomer. They rebuffed his whistleblowing and ignored his phone calls.

Disaster strikes at apathy

There’s an old saying, “there’s none so blind as they who refuse to see”. So, in a proverbial Pearl Harbour style attack, a clever hacker caught these naive networks napping when it came to endpoint security. He stole and passed on to the KGB sensitive data on America’s nuclear program.

Hackers today are still knocking on our doors. Email scams are just one of many tools to entice entry to a business network for dubious purposes. Hacking thrives in a complacent culture. Email filtering alone cannot block every threat targeting users’ emails.

Test for threats

Cicom® has partnered with Sophos Phish Threat to test your employees’ awareness of fake emails and to automatically enrol them in training should they fail.

Keep your users and your business safe with effective simulations, automated training, and comprehensive reporting from Sophos Phish Threat.

Contact your Cicom Ops team to discuss how we can help your staff remain alert and in control over fraudulent emails and cyber security threats.

Cicom® — better for your business.

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