Five security disasters to shake the world

Ever see the film The Net starring Sandra Bullock? No? Well, it was fairly terrible but it did highlight the capabilities of the hacker (SPOILER ALERT).

In it one of the central character's friends, an oddly attractive computer expert, is riding around in a helicopter and for whatever reason he is unable to physically see what is in front of him. He therefore relies on technology to guide the way. Unfortunately for him, the helicopter's navigation systems had been compromised and he flies right into a building and goes up in a ball of flames. Ouch.

To our knowledge, nothing like this has emerged in the corporeal world just yet, but given where transport is heading, there is serious cause for concern.

There are a number of projects underway right now, where companies are designing and testing auto-driving cars via satellites and sensors in roads. If a hacker could gain control over a satellite and access the vehicle's systems, they could control the cars and potentially drive them off of the road.

For terrorist groups, this could be an attractive prospect. Not only could they target innocent civilians, they could go after politically more important individuals such as Government officials or the Royal Family.

Then there is the potential for aeroplane control, as well as other transportation types. The world has seen plenty of hijacks in the past, so it would be no surprise if terrorists used computers to do exactly the same, without even being on board.

Cyber assassination

While in the above case lives could be taken on a wide scale due to a cyber attack, singular assassinations are also a danger.

Again in The Net (still haven't seen it?) the determined and (again) oddly attractive gang of cyber criminals manage to hack into hospital records and change the details of another one of Bullock's unfortunate pals, who tragically expires as well.

Evidently The Net's writers weren't as prescient as they might have been. Amazingly, something even more extreme is thought to have happened. Last month, a report from the Daily Sun Voice of the Nation claimed a mob boss in Italy had been bumped off by a gang of hackers.

The mafia head had been shot but not killed before being rushed to hospital, the report suggested. But on the same night, hackers broke into the hospital computer systems and changed the injured party's medication so he would receive a lethal dose of medicine. Once the murder had been carried out, the cyber criminals covered their tracks by changing the medical details back to what they were. An innocent nurse was subsequently blamed for the mistake.

Given the various laxities seen in the NHS in recent times, with data being lost on more than one occasion, could the UK's hospitals be open to more serious cyber attacks, threatening patients themselves?

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.