When we think about cyber attacks, we usually think about the malicious actors behind the attacks, the people who profit or gain from exploiting digital vulnerabilities and trafficking sensitive data. In doing so, we can make the mistake of ascribing the same humanity to their methods, thinking of people sitting in front of laptops, typing code into a terminal window. But the reality is both more banal and more dangerous: just like businesses, governments, and other organizations have begun to index data and automate processes, the means of finding and exploiting internet-connected systems are largely performed by computers. There’s no security in obscurity if there’s no obscurity.
On November 29th, after a high-profile year of published leaks and hacks targeting the Democratic Party, Wikileaks struck once more, albeit against an unexpected target: HBGary Federal, a now-defunct government contracting affiliate of the eponymous cybersecurity firm. It was not a name unfamiliar to online observers; in 2011, HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr had boldly claimed to have identified the leading members of internet hacking collective Anonymous, drawing attention from federal investigators eager to identify and arrest the culprits behind DDoS attacks in support of Wikileaks.
2015 may have come and gone, but the effects of last year's data breaches are far-reaching—for both millions of consumers and internet users as well as the companies and organizations whose systems were breached. Such events are no less devastating in terms of brand damage, and 2016 will undoubtedly bring forth a heightened collective security awareness in both organizations as well as consumers.