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How do you stop a cyber bank heist?

UQ people
Published 21 Oct, 2020  ·  2 minute read

In 2020 a bank heist isn’t about having firepower. If cyber security isn't done well, it’s as easy as walking into an unlocked vault. That’s where cyber security experts step in.

As computers become increasingly interconnected and support more services than ever, securing these systems becomes more challenging and more crucial.

The Bangladesh Bank Heist was the first crime that woke the world up to the importance of cyber security. Taking place in February 2016, hackers issued 35 fraudulent requests to illegally transfer close to US $1 billion from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York account belonging to the Bangladesh Bank to themselves.

According to Professor Ryan Ko, Chair and Director of UQ Cyber Security, the heist was a stealth cybercrime operation that went completely undetected as it happened.

“In the Bangladesh Bank Heist, conducted by the Lazarus Group and connected to the North Korean Government, hundreds of millions of dollars were stolen and no one even noticed until 24 hours later,” Professor Ko says.

Hackers move quickly to find new ways to bypass digital security systems. So how do cybercrime fighters stay ahead of threats?

“The old way of doing things is still making sure that the mathematics of the security are complicated enough to protect sensitive information. But criminals are creative and find new ways to get around software,” Professor Ko says.

However, the old way of protecting data isn’t the only way. The cyber security industry is always innovating to find new ways of detecting and preventing breaches.

It’s like being the secret agent who thwarts the baddies by detecting threats to companies.

Some people refer to it as ethical hacking, or ‘white hat’ hacking. With the consent of a company, an ethical hacker will seek out and hack a system in a professional manner. The ethical hacker will then show the company their digital vulnerabilities, and suggest how to create better cyber defences.

“We’re still innovating around how to discover errors and vulnerabilities. It’s our job to discover them all and automate the process so we can predict these events before they happen,” Professor Ko says.

But according to Professor Ko, the nature of cyber security means that hackers will always find new ways to bypass systems. These ever-evolving hacking methods mean you always need to be one step ahead of the threat.

“In cyber security, every day we wake up to a new problem, a new threat, or new vulnerabilities that are exposed to the world – so that’s kind of the nature of the job,” Professor Ko says.

“It’s a game of cat and mouse. If you were part of the team going up against the Lazarus Group, you need to outthink young Korean mercenary hackers.”

Want to help companies defend themselves against cybersecurity threats? Discover how with the Bachelor of Computer Science at UQ.

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