A bogus Tweet sent from the Associated Press after it had been hacked set off pandemonium and caused Wall Street to go into panic.
It's the latest example of how cyber security can impact government, the world of finance and our lives. Web criminals and even some terrorists are thinking of new ways to breach Internet security to create havoc and steal from you.
How safe are we in Shelby County from the cyber threat?
Almost anyone who owns a computer has had to be on guard against viruses and spammers. The same is true for your bank, our hospitals, the airport and local government. They are all targets of cyber crooks who want to use them to get to you.
Imagine this sensational and hypothetical scenario: Memphis International Airport in chaos as the runway lights don't work? Police and fire response delayed because the communication system suddenly turned off? Memphis plunged into darkness from a blackout not caused by mechanical problems to the electrical grid but the result of a cyber attack?
"If you can bring this area to its knees for whatever reason in any major capacity, when you have do that you have put yourself in a position to interrupt the entire United States," said Jason Byrd, of Memphis Light Gas and Water (MLGW).
The Internet has brought the world to the Mid-South and made our lives vulnerable to a cyber attack.
"We go above and beyond best practices," Byrd added. "We have outside sources do penetration testing for us and to date they have not been successful and be able to penetrate our network."
"What is the next generation of war?," said Bob Nations, Shelby County of Emergency Preparedness. "Maybe (cyber is the next generation). People are suggesting that it may be and it is."
An Internet invasion of Memphis will not be so dramatic says Christopher Bell of Landmark Community Bank.
"This is the northern part of Europe that is being attacked - activist groups that since September have been hacking US banks," said Bell, who is Landmark's IT person and monitors the global alerts of cyber threats.
Bell believes web criminals might bypass banks in the Mid-South for the larger financial institutions. They want something more valuable than savings and deposits.
"If they can get into the bank, it's about all the credit cards, they can get because they can turn around and sell those credit cards on the black market," he said. "Sometimes the breach is meant to cause inconvenience and embarrassment. That's what happened to Regions Bank recently when its website was shut down."
Could it be terrorism?
"Yes, it is! It's a real issue, it is a troubling issue and it's real threat," Bell said.
Nations believes local governments made the costly investment to build firewalls of trained people and new technology to secure your confidential information.
"Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, all that is in a database somewhere," says Nations. "(The country) is secure. I know my folks over there and I know their efforts."
The determination of the hackers can't be overstated. Every day the public and private sector must keep vigil. Relax for a moment and that hypothetical scenario could become a reality.
"No matter their reason for trying to get into MLGW network, it is our job to protect them from getting anything, no matter what it is," Byrd said.
Most companies say the most vulnerable point of any system is your computer. While they have spent an undisclosed amount of money on firewalls, personnel and support staff, many people have computers that are not security updated. It's a welcome mat for a cyber-attack that could go global.
WHBQ-TV | Fox 13
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