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Freeman Cebu Business

Cybercrime

FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel O. Abalos - The Freeman

Last weekend, through the use of a cloud-based video communications app, the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants-Cebu Chapter successfully held its 8th Summit, an all-virtual summit. With virtual speakers mostly outside of Cebu and some virtual delegates coming from Australia and New Zealand, the technology made it all possible. 

With the surge of Covid-19 variants, this setup will become more prevalent. As the technology improves, certainly, it shall also become permanent. So that, in the future, when “in person” conferences will already be feasible, these video communication apps will still be in use.  Expect, therefore, that all conferences in the coming years will all be hybrid or blended (in person and virtual).

Indeed, according to Kearney’s (one the world’s ten largest consulting firms) Senior Partner Ettore Pastore, there shall be “no slowdown in automation, information technology (IT), digitization or artificial intelligence (AI) investments for the foreseeable future.” True enough, AI advocates are so optimistic on positive scenarios like this. But at what cost?

Remember what happened on May 7 this year? Weren’t you surprised that the prices of gasoline went up sharply that month? It was because Colonial Pipeline (operator of the USA’s largest fuel pipeline) was in the receiving end of a ransomware attack. Due to such attack, the company took its pipeline system offline to avoid further damage. Sadly, as millions were affected by it, the “company was forced to pay US$4.4 million to a gang of hackers who broke into its computer systems” to “restart it quickly and safely.”

Scarily though this is just a tip of the iceberg.  Cybercrime comes in many forms and modus operandi.  Pundits identify cybercrime costs to include, among others, “damage and destruction of data, stolen money, lost productivity, theft of intellectual property, theft of personal and financial data, embezzlement, fraud, post-attack disruption to the normal course of business, forensic investigation, restoration and deletion of hacked data and systems, and reputational harm.”

With these schemes regularly occurring, according to Cybersecurity Ventures (CV), cybercrime is expected to wreak havoc, globally. This year alone, cybercriminals are expected to rake in US$6 trillion. So staggering that if it were a country, it shall be overtaking Japan as the world’s third largest economy.

CV expects that the world’s burden from these cybercrimes shall grow by 15% annually reaching US$10.5 trillion by 2025. This represents “the greatest transfer of economic wealth in history, risks the incentives for innovation and investment, is exponentially larger than the damage inflicted from natural disasters in a year, and will be more profitable than the global trade of all major illegal drugs combined.”

These cybercriminals are heartless. They victimize even ordinary folks. Haven’t we heard about phishing, smishing, vishing and other online fraud schemes targeting bank clients, credit card holders and e-wallet accounts holders? And as Covid-19 ruled our lives, these criminals were feasting on our ignorance as we went online shopping and were often using online financial services. 

Undeniably, criminal-minded humans are always a step ahead of the well-meaning individuals. While we are trying to develop AIs, etc. that will improve our lives, these wicked beings will make these as their gateways to sow terror and make billions from it. They are capable of undertaking either a large-scale attack or a small one like a person who has Elon Musk’s “Neuralink” brain chip embedded in his head.   

However, we should not let fear rule our lives.  Instead of suppressing the progress of AI, etc., we must do something to mitigate its negative consequences. We need to realize that in the coming years, apart from cybercrimes, intelligent systems will take all clerical and repetitious tasks from us. We must further realize that these systems will even take over more and more decision-making tasks from us, humans.

Therefore, there is a need to exploit these powerful technologies. How? By first understanding it. Just like any tool we can find in our households, we can’t use it if we do not understand how it works and what it can do. We don’t have to know how it is made. We only need to know their distinctive characteristics and how they can help solve real and pressing problems. 

Hopefully, along the way, we will also be able to know how to protect ourselves.

foabalos@yahoo.com

CYBERCRIME
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