The unfortunate nature of computer programming is that there will always be weaknesses in the coding. Even if every measure is taken to ensure that there is no route into systems for malicious hackers to take, there is always the chance that something went unnoticed in the development stages. The perfect example is Windows XP, which – up until Tuesday – had been receiving after-thought patches for almost 13 years. People who are still using it are more likely to be attacked by cybercriminals that have been taking the errors found in more recent incarnations of Windows and trying to find the same flaws in XP.
But this phenomenon is not exclusive to outdated operating systems. It was recently discovered that a weakness known as Heartbleed was found on a vast majority of servers and routers around the world – including those of major services like Facebook and Google, but also on the consumer-grade solutions offered by companies like Cisco and Juniper.
This vulnerability was complicated to disclose due to the widespread nature of Heartbleed. There had to be a confidential air to passing the word along – news of the flaw had not yet found its way into unscrupulous circles.
“But like any secret, every new insider increased the risk that the news would leak,” wrote The Verge contributor Russell Brandom. “The worst case scenario was Heartbleed leaking out to a black-hat forum, where the news would spread to attackers first. At a certain point, researchers inevitably decide the risk of a leak is too great and they have no choice but to publish the leak in advance.”
This left millions – if not billions – of people potentially exposed to criminal hackers. This is why security cannot be left up to the services and hardware that claim to be well-defended – there have to be extra considerations on the part of the people and companies that leverage them. Being proactive in terms of cybersecurity is rapidly becoming standard for organizations around the world, and as the threat landscape continues to evolve in the digital age, it will need to be almost second nature.
Software layered security growing critical in importance
The reality is that there is nothing that can be done to deter cybercrime from happening. With more breaches and hacks being reported, the likelihood of being hit increases with each day that goes by. Private computers and government servers alike stand just as much of a chance of being targeted, and there has to be an acceptance of this in order for progress to occur.
The discovery of Heartbleed has certainly driven this point home. The existence of this flaw has potentially let criminals right into a universal backdoor through which they can steal sensitive information.
But the mantra of computer defense should be “the more, the merrier.” Because one line of protection can be exploited through its flaws, there has to be another one standing behind it – and, ideally, further barriers past that point. This is why, no matter what kinds of security are theoretically in place on third-party hardware and systems, there has to be more done on the part of the user.
Part of this comes from leveraging security software independent of what comes standard with an operating system. Even if an attack is inevitable, its effects can be mitigated and defended against by bringing in as many safety assets as possible. The further the digital locks go in the system, the less likely it will be that a criminal can break in undetected.