OPINION: #LibertyHack – The Future of Crime

CAPE TOWN – This week marks the end of online security as we know it in South Africa. The Liberty Hack (hacking of Liberty computer systems that led to the theft of data and information) has broken the trust of many South Africans who trust formal institutions.

If Liberty can be hacked, what stops hacking of a bank, retailer or hospital in South Africa.

In comparison, the cash-in-transit robberies are nothing compared to the Liberty Hack. The reason for that is simply the fact that the Liberty Hack is a gleam of the future of crime in South Africa.

The cash-in-transit robberies will be a thing of the past the sooner we adopt digital means of payments.

The next challenge that we will have as society will be crimes committed through digital means on the internet. The hacking of Liberty is just a sign of things to come.

The reason for this is simple and it relates to the fact that there’s a move towards connecting everything.

The Internet of Things, which is one of the key features of the Fourth Industrial Age, will enable everyday objects such automobiles (cars,buses and trains), home-wares (fridge,washing machine, stove), clothing (jackets, spectacles,watches) to be connected. Institutions such as schools, police stations and hospitals will all be connected.

The more connected we will be, the more vulnerable we will be.

The nature of crime will change and the Liberty Hack should be seen as just an example of what will happen to other institutions.

The following are just some of the crimes that will be possible in the future the more connected we are and the more we rely on digitally enabled tools:

Car cyber hijacking, 3D guns, health hack and country hacking

Car cyber hijacking

South Africans are used to videos of criminals hijacking cars from street lights and stop streets. This is nothing compared to the future of car hijacking, which will be enabled via digital tools.

Chrysler, the car manufacturer, knows the future of car hijacking based on its own experience. Recently Chrysler announced a recall for 1.4million vehicles after a pair of hackers demonstrated to Wired magazine that they could remotely hijack a Jeep’s digital systems over the Internet.

The digital tools used by these hackers enabled them to remotely hack into the car and paralyse it on a highway, while it was being driven in traffic. The hackers could have even disabled the car’s brakes at low speeds. This was enabled by sending carefully crafted messages on the vehicle’s internal network known as a CAN bus. The same system can even cause unintended acceleration and slamming on the car’s brakes or turning the vehicle’s steering wheel at any speed.

In the future, the threat to your car will not be visible and, therefore, preventative measures will be different to what you can do to a hijacker today like using a gun. In fact, even dealing with guns will become more complicated in the future.

3D guns

Today, depending on how strict gun laws are in a country, the prevalence of crime committed through guns can be limited.

In future, if laws are not adapted, guns will pose a major security threat to citizens due to recent developments in technology.

The latest in the field of additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, have made home manufacturing simpler than ever before, which makes it easier to circumvent gun laws.

3D today can enable the printing of a gun that can be as harmful as a gun that you buy from a gun shop.

This means criminals can walk into a country without a gun but just a 3D printer and, thereafter, print a gun within a country where they intend to cause harm.

The United Kingdom knows too well about what 3D printed guns can do.

The UK is known for effective and restrictive gun-control laws. However, this did not save them from 3D printed guns.

A British Member of Parliament, Jo Cox, has been murdered with a “makeshift gun”.

Even if you secure yourself digitally, in future you will have to worry about the security of your country digitally due to Country Hacking.

Country Hacking

Followers of this column would know that Sweden is considered one of the leaders in terms of being digitally enabled. It is also one of the countries that is known to have been hacked – the entire country. Recently in Sweden sensitive and personal data of millions of people along with the nation’s military secrets, have been exposed, putting every individual’s as well as national security at risk.

The data was apparently compromised by the Swedish government itself. Swedish media reported that a massive data breach in the Swedish Transport Agency after it mishandled an outsourcing deal with IBM, led to the leak of the private data about every vehicle in the country, including those used by both police and military.

The data breach exposed the names, photos and home addresses of millions of Swedish citizen, including fighter pilots of the Swedish air force, members of the military’s most secretive units, police suspects, people under the witness relocation programme, the weight capacity of all roads and bridges, and much more. The incident was believed at the time to be one of the worst government information security disasters ever.

The Liberty Hack should serve as a warning to South African authorities and corporates about the state of the countries readiness to deal with the future crimes. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring good and bad things to society. Whilst we need to prepare ourselves to benefit from the good parts, we also need to prepare ourselves for the unintended consequences of using technology.

Wesley Diphoko is founder and chief executive of Kaya Labs. He also serves as the chairperson of the IEEE Open Data Industry Connections in South Africa.


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