Security: Year in review 2010


It has been a monumental year for cyber security, perhaps the most significant 12 months ever.

The entire sector has grown in prominence both within the IT industry and outside. There have been some truly watershed moments, from serious political moves to giant acquisitions.

There is little doubt about it 2010 will be ingrained in the memory of many security professionals for some time to come. We take a look back at the biggest moments.

Getting political Cyber warfare emerged as a massive issue this year. Before 2010, governments had barely touched on the issues at hand, at least not openly. But a hack on Google thought to emanate from China became well-publicised at the beginning of the year and things started to heat up.

And then the most sophisticated piece of malware ever seen was detected. After it was spotted by a relatively unknown company from Belarus named VirusBlokAda, Stuxnet emerged as no ordinary threat. Not only did the creators manage to empower it to exploit four zero-day vulnerabilities, Stuxnet could manipulate programmable logic controllers (PLCs).

Basically, it had the potential to mess around with industrial controls. Interestingly, many of the infections were found to be in Iran, which led some to speculate that the malware had been created by a nation state. Indeed, this now looks likely, as Iranian officials even admitted the country's critical infrastructure had been targeted by Stuxnet.

It is yet to be determined if Stuxnet managed to cause any real-world damage, although a German expert recently told the Jerusalem Post the malware had put Iran's nuclear programme back by two years.

The ripples Stuxnet made seemed to lead to a shift in the mindsets of politicians across the globe. In the UK, the Government announced additional funding for fighting cyber crime and ranked it alongside terrorism, chemical attacks and natural disasters as one of the biggest threats to the nation.

Meanwhile, GCHQ director Iain Lobban warned that the country's critical infrastructure was at threat from a cyber attack.

Cyber threats and political motivations had been intertwined for years, but only in 2010 did this become so startlingly clear.

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.