The U.S. Department of Homeland Security ran a test this year to see how hard it was for hackers to corrupt workers and gain access to computer systems. Not very, it turned out.
Staff secretly dropped computer discs and USB thumb drives in the parking lots of government buildings and private contractors. Of those who picked them up, 60 percent plugged the devices into office computers, curious to see what they contained. If the drive or CD case had an official logo, 90 percent were installed.
“There’s no device known to mankind that will prevent people from being idiots,” said Mark Rasch, director of network security and privacy consulting for Falls Church, Virginia-based Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC)
The test showed something computer security experts have long known: Humans are the weak link in the fight to secure networks against sophisticated hackers. The intruders’ ability to exploit people’s vulnerabilities has tilted the odds in their favor and led to a spurt in cyber crimes.
In real-life intrusions, executives of EMC Corp.’s RSA Security, Intel Corp. (INTC) and Google Inc. were targeted with e-mails with traps set in the links. And employees unknowingly post vital information on Facebook or Twitter.
It’s part of a $1 trillion problem, based on the estimated cost of all forms of online theft, according to McAfee Inc., the Santa Clara, California-based computer security company.