It can be argued that all data is susceptible to cyber vandalism. From wiki engines that decentralize administrative power, to private intranets and restricted gateways, data is at the mercy of those who can access it. That Facebook page taken over by an angry girlfriend is an example of cyber vandalism, as is the website which redirects users to absurd pages. Recent years have seen a significant rise in cyber vandalism in which hackers attempt to damage or deface content with automated programs.
Whereas many are familiar with the likes of financial and identity theft, collectively referred to as cyber crime, the lesser known attack of cyber vandalism is solely focused on the distortion of content and data. It’s an evolving threat to the digital sphere, due to the big bang of data and our growing dependence on it. Data, whether relational or otherwise, becomes useless the moment it its integrity comes into question.
For public and private organizations, the solution has become the use of third-party vendors. But even this carries some inherent risks. According to a business survey entitled Third Party Risk: Exposing the Gaps, Thomas Reuters, an International mass media and information firm, stated that more than 70% of global organizations had begun sharing their data with third-party service providers. Such openness of data puts companies at risk, but many of them believe that it will enhance their prospects for security and brand protection.
Still, a business model in which a firm is not solely responsible for the privacy and protection of its own accounts implies that cyber vandalism is a force to be reckoned with. It has become significantly important for businesses to not only analyze and understand their own security measures, but to learn and adopt broader ecosystems that incorporate partners and even other organizations that are associated with its supply chain.
Different data protection schemes such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GPDR) and the Open Banking and Second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) aim to protect the data and privacy of entities across the world. It is pertinent that individuals and organizations understand these regulations and take the necessary actions to protect their systems. This includes performing scans and security audits on a regular basis.
Experts, however, claim that the motive behind cyber vandalism cannot always be ascertained. Although most vandalism is considered illegal, cyber vandalism can be the result of miscommunication among colleagues, researchers implementing new hacking techniques (also known as white hat hacking), or even students experimenting with newfound knowledge. These variables obscure the process of examination which would otherwise be used to predict and prevent online illegal acts.
In the aftermath of the powerful Petya ransomware attack that crippled many governmental and private organizations in Ukraine in 2017, top investigating firms claimed the attack was not designed for the collection of huge sums of money but was rather aimed at destroying critical data. Researchers suspect that attackers tend to disguise certain malware programs as ransomware but use them for other nefarious purposes. This is also cyber vandalism.
Regardless of intent, the act of manipulating data will likely gain prevalence as more people and organizations grow dependent on automated systems. For every member of society is one who seeks to disrupt it, by gaining unauthorized access or forcing entry through hacking techniques and malicious software programs. The intelligence of Cybersecurity will continue to increase, as will cyber vandalism—so long as there is data at risk of theft and exposure.