BEFORE DECRYING THE LATEST CYBERBREACH, CONSIDER YOUR OWN CYBERHYGIENE


The theft of 80 million customer records from health insurance company Anthemearlier this month would be more shocking if it were not part of a larger trend. In 2013, the Department of Defense and some US states were receiving 10–20 million cyberattacks per day. By 2014, there was a 27% increase in successful attacks, culminating with the infamous hack of Sony Pictures.

Much of the media focus is on the losses rather than the process by which such breaches take place. Consequently, instead of talking about how we could stop the next attack, people and policymakers are discussing punitive actions. But not enough attention is given to the actions of individual end users in these cyberattacks.

We are the unintentional insiders

Many of these hacking attacks employ simple phishing schemes, such as an e-card on Valentine’s Day or a notice from the IRS about your tax refund. They look innocuous but when clicked, they open virtual back doors into our organizations.

It is you and I who click on these links and become the “unintentional insiders” giving the hackers access and helping spread the infection. Such attacks are hard to detect using existing anti-virus programs that, like vaccines, are good at protecting systems from known external threats — not threats from within.

Clearly, this virtual battle cannot be won using software alone. In the same way personal hygiene stymies the spread of infectious disease, fixing this cyber quandary will require all of us to develop better cyberhygiene. We need to begin by considering the cyberbehaviors that lead to breaches.

My research on phishing points to three. Firstly, most of us pay limited attention to email content, focusing instead on quick clues that help expedite judgment. A picture of an inexpensive heart-shaped valentine gift gets attention, oftentimes at the cost of looking at the sender’s email address.

This is coupled by our ritualized media habits that our always-on and accessible smartphones and tablets enable. Many of us check emails throughout the day whenever an opportunity or notification arises, even when we know it is dangerous to do so, such as while driving. Such habitual usage significantly increases the likelihood of someone opening an email as matter of routine.

And finally, many of us just aren’t knowledgeable about online risks. We tend to hold what I call “cyber risk beliefs” about the security of an operating system, the safety of a program, or the vulnerability of an online action, most of which are flawed.

Cleaning up our cyberhygiene act

Developing cyberhygiene requires all of us — netizens, educators, local government, and federal policymakers — to actively engage in creating it.

To begin, we must focus on educating everyone about the risks of online actions. Most children don’t learn about cybersafety until they reach high school; many until college. More troublingly, some learn through risky trials or the reports of someone else’s errors.

In an age where online data remain on servers perpetually, the consequences of a privacy breach could haunt a victim forever. Expanding federal programs such as theNational Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, which presently aims to inspire students to pursue cybersecurity careers, could help achieve universal cybersecurity education.

Second, we must train people to become better at detecting online fraud. At the very least, all of us must be made aware of online security protocols, safe browsing practices, secure password creation and storage, and on procedures for sequestering or reporting suspicious activity. Flawed cyber-risk beliefs must be replaced with objective knowledge through training.

Although some training programs address these issues, most target businesses that can pay for training. Left out are households and other vulnerable groups, which, given the recent “bring your own device to work” (BYOD) trend, increases the chances that a compromised personal device brings a virus into the workplace. Initiatives such as the Federal Cybersecurity Training Events that presently offer free workshops to IT professionals are steps in this direction, but the emphasis must move beyond training specialists to training the average netizen.

President Obama calls for beefing up cybersecurity laws on Feb 13, 2015.

Finally, we must centralize the reporting of cyber breaches. The President’s proposed Personal Data Notification and Protection Act would make it mandatory for companies to report data breaches within 30 days. But it still doesn’t address who within the vast network of enforcement agencies is responsible for resolution. Having a single clearing house that centralizes and tracks breaches, just like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks disease outbreaks across the nation, would make remediation and resource allocation easier.

Across the Atlantic, the City of London Police created a system called Action Fraud, which serves as a single site for reporting all types of cyberattacks, along with a specialized team called FALCON to quickly respond to and even address impending cyberattacks. Our city and state police forces could do likewise by channeling some resource away from fighting offline crime. After all, real world crime is at a historically low rate while cybercrimes have grown exponentially.

The Conversation

Department of Defense is testing a bullet that can CHANGE DIRECTION 


  • The US Military is developing a bullet which can change direction mid-air
  • The .50-caliber sniper round was successfully tested earlier this summer
  • The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency released the test footage
  • The world record for a confirmed sniper kill is longer than 1.5 miles (2.4km)
  • Darpa hopes the new bullets will allow snipers to take even longer shots
  • A bullet at that range can take almost three seconds to reach its target 

The US military has successfully tested a .50-caliber sniper round that can change direction on its way to its target.

And now the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) has released a video of this Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (Exacto) program in action.

The footage shows the bullet changing direction in mid-air in response to a target’s movements.

Once fired, actuators inside the guided bullet receive data from an optical sensor to guide it to the correct location. Small fins are used to change the bullet's trajectory, and the bullet can correct its movements 30 times a second. This grab shows the path, original aim point, and the moving target (green) 

Once fired, actuators inside the guided bullet receive data from an optical sensor to guide it to the correct location. Small fins are used to change the bullet’s trajectory, and the bullet can correct its movements 30 times a second. This grab shows the path, original aim point, and the moving target (green)

According to Darpa: ‘For military snipers, acquiring moving targets in unfavourable conditions, such as high winds and dusty terrain commonly found in Afghanistan, is extremely challenging with current technology.

HOW EXACTO FINDS ITS TARGET

A video from the Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (Exacto) program shows a bullet changing its direction.

DARPA has not released precise details of how its bullet moves in mid-air, but this is one way in which the technology could work.

Each self-guided bullet is four inches (10 cm) long.

A sniper working at extreme range shines a laser onto the target.

An optical sensor on the bullet detects the light from the laser to identify where the target is.

Once fired, actuators inside the bullet receive data from the optical sensor to guide it to the correct location.

Small fins are used to change the bullet’s trajectory, and the bullet can correct its movements 30 times a second.

These changes are in response to movements of the laser, which the sniper uses to continually track and light up the target.

The sniper additionally has to take into account wind, distance and even the curvature of the Earth, before pulling the trigger.

Darpa claims the new system is the first ever guided small caliber bullet.

‘The Exacto .50-caliber round and optical sighting technology expects to greatly extend the day and night time range over current state-of-the-art sniper systems,’ continued the agency.

‘The system combines a manoeuverable bullet and a real-time guidance system to track and deliver the projectile to the target, allowing the bullet to change path during flight to compensate for any unexpected factors that may drive it off course.

‘Technology development in Phase II included the design, integration and demonstration of aero-actuation controls, power sources, optical guidance systems, and sensors.

‘The program’s next phase includes a system-level live-fire test and technology refinement to enhance and improve performance.’

The current world record for the longest certified kill was by Corporal Craig Harrison of the UK Household Cavalry, who killed two Taliban in November 2009 from 1.54 miles (22.4km).

The shot was approximately 3,000ft (914 metres) beyond the stated maximum range of the Accuracy L115A3 sniper rifle, used by Corporal Harrison.

The Taliban were so far away it took each round almost three seconds to reach its target.

Snipers typically work in two-man teams with a spotter assisting the gunman identifying targets as well as providing security.

But environmental details such as wind, rain and even humidity can affect the flight path of a bullet.

This graphic reveals how the Exacto bullet tracks its target and changes directions. The sniper additionally has to take into account wind, distance and even the curvature of the Earth, before pulling the trigger. DARPA has not released precise details of how its bullet moves in mid-air, but this is one way in which the technology could work.

This graphic reveals how the Exacto bullet tracks its target and changes directions. The sniper additionally has to take into account wind, distance and even the curvature of the Earth, before pulling the trigger. DARPA has not released precise details of how its bullet moves in mid-air, but this is one way in which the technology could work.

EXACTO rounds manoeuvre in flight to hit unaimed targets

A sniper begins by shining a laser onto the target. An optical sensor on the 4-inch (10cm) Exacto bullet (illustrated) detects the laser to identify where the target is. As the bullet moves through the air, it responds to changes in the movement of the laser, which the sniper uses to continually track and light up the target

A sniper begins by shining a laser onto the target. An optical sensor on the 4-inch (10cm) Exacto bullet (illustrated) detects the laser to identify where the target is. As the bullet moves through the air, it responds to changes in the movement of the laser, which the sniper uses to continually track and light up the target

Also bullets have to counter gravity and droop down over longer distances.

Under the new system, a sniper will be able to adjust the bullet’s direction mid-flight in case a target moved or the bullet shifted due to a gust of wind.

The newly released video shows two tests filmed earlier this year. In the both tests the round is fired deliberately off target but turns in mid-air.

In the second target, the round it its intended target despite being fired several feet to the left.

Ted Catchel, professor emeritus at the Naval War College said the system is a very interesting development.

He told Stars and Stripes: ‘I don’t know if you push a button and it takes over. I just couldn’t find out enough about the system to know how it works.

‘You still need to train these snipers in the traditional methods. Right now, sniping is a real precise art.’

This screengrab shows the bullet (shown in white) changing from its original path, pictured in red, and moving to face the target, shown in green. The newly released video shows two tests filmed earlier this year. In the both tests the round is fired deliberately off target but turns in mid-air

This screengrab shows the bullet (shown in white) changing from its original path, pictured in red, and moving to face the target, shown in green. The newly released video shows two tests filmed earlier this year. In the both tests the round is fired deliberately off target but turns in mid-air

According to Darpa: 'For military snipers, acquiring moving targets in unfavourable conditions is extremely challenging with current technology. It is critical that snipers be able to engage targets faster, and with better accuracy, since any shot that doesn’t hit a target also risks the safety of troops.' Stock image used

According to Darpa: ‘For military snipers, acquiring moving targets in unfavourable conditions is extremely challenging with current technology. It is critical that snipers be able to engage targets faster, and with better accuracy, since any shot that doesn’t hit a target also risks the safety of troops.’ Stock image used

Many snipers use .50 caliber bullets, similar to the ones pictured, because their weight causes significant damage. Snipers typically work in two-man teams with a spotter assisting the gunman identifying targets as well as providing security. The wind, rain and even humidity can affect the flight path of a bullet

Many snipers use .50 caliber bullets, similar to the ones pictured, because their weight causes significant damage. Snipers typically work in two-man teams with a spotter assisting the gunman identifying targets as well as providing security. The wind, rain and even humidity can affect the flight path of a bullet