Syria and Cyber-Attacks: New Targets Call for New Security Measures

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“Welcome to the new world,” was the response of Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to the recent computer attacks on the New York Times and Associated Press Twitter accounts.

The current warfare situation is indeed new: the recently published U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21 report says with “high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs.” President Obama has called for support for an air strike from the Congress prior to responding to this report. Meanwhile, the oil prices keep fluctuating in the anticipation of a possible war and disruption of oil shipments from the Middle East.

WTI Crude Oil Prompt Price. The graph above demonstrates the rising crude oil future settlements prices. (Data Source: NYMEX)

As the world awaits the decision from the U.S. Congress, the increasing tension from potential retaliation by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) is starting to spread far beyond your typical military and media agencies targets. Utilities, banks, financial systems, and infrastructure sites may now all be potential targets of SEA. Despite the U.S. government reporting the limited possibilities of Middle Eastern hackers, the latest attack by SEA on the New York Times and on on August 27 shows increasing expertise among the organization and could potentially involve Iranian military attackers – taking the conflict out of the Middle East and making it global in reach.

Many companies are already fortifying their defense systems: for example, JPMorgan Chase has spent over $200 million a year on data security and the number is only expected to go up over the next few years. Already, 172 companies surveyed by Bloomberg would have to increase their security budgets on average by 774% to reach the highest level of security to stop 95% of all attacks. Another survey by the Congress on Electric Grid Vulnerability reveals daily attacks on the utility companies, with some reporting over 10,000 attempted attacks in a month. (Keep reading about the cyber threat to data and companies in our August 2013 DataWatch Editorial Letter here.)

Having worked with utilities companies, security has always been a major concern, especially when it comes to enterprise data management. This is why the ZEMA Suite, our data management and analysis solution software, can be installed behind a firewall and is fully integrated with a company’s IT and security systems. For more information on how ZEMA does it, download the PDF on our security management tool Admin Console or book us for a demo.


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