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Could a cyber attack kill? IT executives believe so

Cyber security is becoming more complex as hackers start to cyber attack fundamental infrastructure on the Internet, with the ability to destroy businesses and potentially kill.

That is what 48 per cent of IT executives at Aspen Institute and Intel Security are saying, with 64 per cent claiming this has only remained impossible due to the amount of security layered into critical infrastructure and services.

Half of the attendees surveyed see the future as one where critical life-and-death services are available on the Internet. Things like robotic medical procedures that use cloud data to find the proper dosage or procedure; self-driving cars that use the Internet to find mapping information and drones that are sent to remote locations during a natural disaster.

Having all of these lifesaving tools online means it is possible for hackers to intercept, even in a closed Intranet connection. All it takes is one employee opening a phishing email or a social engineer finding a password, to potentially leak into the system.

The amount of cyber attacks has grown in the last three years exponentially, helped on by the growth in government attacks. The fact we hear about a GCHQ cyber attack on allied corporations in Belgium (opens in new tab) and The Netherlands (opens in new tab), alongside human rights organisations (opens in new tab), sure does give the impression hacking isn’t taken seriously.

Currently, there aren’t that many critical systems online that could result in the death of a human. Shutting down a company may put some employees out of business, but that is very indirect and could not be attributed to an actual death.

However, in the next ten years we are going to see rapid growth in health tech, home tech and other more personalised and sophisticated technologies. Even though these will no doubt enhance people’s lives, they also come with Internet installed, and hackers that manage to bypass the security on these new products could inflict serious damage.

David has been a technology journalist for over six years, covering a wide range of sectors. He currently researches apps, app sectors and app markets for Business of Apps, and has written for ITProPortal, RTInsights, ReadWrite, and Digital Trends.