Cyber Threats: Assessment & Analysis

Instructor: David Gloag
Cyber threats are a hot topic these days. You just have to look at the evening news to get an example. In this lesson, we'll take a look at cyber threats, what they are, how to assess their impact, and how to determine the root cause.

The Cyber Problem

We live in a world where there are those that wish to do us harm. And with the pervasiveness of the Internet, it makes sense that the systems it runs on would be targets. We constantly hear in the news about the US, Russia, and China engaged in cyber scandals of one sort or another. Recently, US presidential candidate Donald Trump invited Russia to hack US servers and find missing email. In another instance, the terrorist group ISIS was being engaged through cyber warfare. Will it ever end? In the short term, likely not. Before a solution can be found, steps must be taken to identify, assess, and analyze possible cyber threats.

What Is a Cyber Threat?

A cyber threat is any activity that can potentially damage, remove, or compromise the hardware, and/or software of an information system. This includes the computer in your office at work, the computer on your desk at home, and, of course, the computers located on the Internet. Think of the information you store on your personal computer. What would the effect be if your computer was lost or stolen? Or think about a company like Amazon, and what would happen if one of their data centers burned to the ground. These threats are real, and can potentially have catastrophic effects.

How Do We Assess a Cyber Threat?

When we assess, we are trying to describe the magnitude of the impact a cyber threat might have. This is no small thing. Often, this boils down to money lost. But is this a fair way to attach an impact or value? It makes sense in cases like tax records, or banking account information, where the loss can be directly attributed to dollars and cents. However, what if the cyber threat affects things like digital family photos? They don't have any real monetary value. They simply mean a lot to us personally.

Cyber threat assessment takes into account several factors. Here are some of the more important ones:

  • Market value - This is the value of the system hardware, software, or information if someone was to buy it on the open market.
  • Cost of replacement - These are the costs incurred to replace the hardware, software or information, outside of market value. Things like shipping and transportation fall into this category.
  • Loss in revenue - This is the amount of money lost if hardware, software, or information, is unavailable. This also must take into account the amount of time these resources will be absent.
  • Intrinsic value - This is the value to the owner. This is often difficult to determine because it is hard to put a value on sentiment.
  • Usage value - This is the value to the users of the resource, and is often quite different than that of the intrinsic value.

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