The Fifth Estate (January 2018)

Security has been the big news over the holiday period and early in 2018 and we are not just talking about how the Prime Minister’s department sent an old, locked filing cabinet full of state secrets to a second-hand store.

Forgive the conspiracy theorist in me but there is much that doesn’t add up about this security breach and it seems that the cabinet papers there-in all appear to be damaging to the opposition and ended up in the hands of the national broadcaster. Coincidence?

Back to the digital world. Hacking is a science and it is highly likely that the best hackers end up working for the state whether that be the axis of evil or otherwise. Computerworld published an interesting article that showed six ways that hackers will be using machine learning to launch attacks.

Spectre the Protector?

Without doubt, the biggest story of the summer though was the so-called “Meltdown” and “Spectre” security flaws identified in Intel and other chipsets.

It must be a nightmare for systems administrators and cyber security experts to know what to do but here are some recommendations on what to do and where to start securing against calamity.

One of the reasons that these flaws emerged was because chip manufacturers over generations appeared to have been making security compromises in pursuit of the marketing advantages in a consumer need for speed.

ZDNet ran a lab test on system performance for Linux platforms before and after the patched were applied and while there was a difference, the results were not as bad as some expected.

But if you think that hackers aren’t going to try and exploit the vulnerabilities exposed, then you are wrong. They are already testing malware to take advantage. In fact, at last report there were 139 of them.

The good news is that the whole Meltdown and Spectre debacle has drawn very few actual malware attacks and could indeed provide valuable lessons about the fundamental design issues that failed us all here.

Meanwhile, Intel, the chip manufacturer that was largely responsible for the whole catastrophe has promised to have Spectre- and Meltdown-proof chipsets available before the end of the year.

Toll sacking 200 IT staff

There was a story that broke a couple of weeks ago about logistics giant, Toll outsourcing 200 IT jobs currently held by locals to new services delivery centre in India.

Our very own President, Robert Hudson was sought out for opinion and he added value to the discussion by pointing out that there is more of this going on than just what is reported in the media.

After the boardroom table decision was leaked to the press, Toll’s PR team went into damage control mode, claiming that it would also be creating 340 new jobs in Australia. We’ll believe it when we see it.

Cyber security training ramping up

In other news, it seems that the shortage of skills available to keep the internet safe and secure is getting some response from government and educational institutions with TAFE planning to run courses. It would also seem that people are recognising the career opportunities in acquiring some of these skills.

While on the subject of cyber security, the sky-rocketing (if unstable) value of crypto currencies means there are sure to be many nefarious hackers on the job trying to run off with all the dough. Japan’s largest exchange was hacked in what was touted as possibly the biggest ever heist of digital dosh but they have promised to pay it back.

Fortune magazine (online) published an article that it claims include everything you need to know about the Coincheck hack. In another article Forbes declares that, more than a third of exchanges have been hacked at some time or other while ZDNet wrote that ICOs (Initial Coin Offers) have also been the target of hackers with over $400 million lost in the process of issuing new coins.

Just to make you feel safer about dabbling in the cyber currency market, hackers are trying everything and have even been caught out leveraging popular social media platforms such as YouTube. Some think that North Korea is behind the hacking.

All of which begs the question, how will regulators handle the challenges of maintaining integrity of digital currencies?

Blockchain is more than bitcoin

Finally, I thought this was a good summary of some of the other applications for the Blockchain technology behind Bitcoin and other digital currencies.