Cork Tech Summit gives stark demonstration on cybercrime vulnerability

Robert McArdle, Director of Trend Micro, pictured at it@cork Tech Summit 2019 today. Photo: Gerard McCarthy

With connected devices now outnumbering people, attendees at Cork's annual Tech Summit were given a stark demonstration of how it pays to be on guard against cybercrime.

Watching experts from global cybersecurity firm Trend Micro seamlessly hack into a personal phone and computer using the public wifi system brought a sense of wonder and horror all at once for the 400 tech enthusiasts and professionals in Cork's City Hall.

Director for cybercrime research in Trend Micro’s team, Robert McArdle told stunned onlookers that the live hack done within minutes showed the potential for criminal behaviour.

“Data breaches are one of the biggest risks to consumers today - and it is also completely out of their control. While already insidious, data breaches are going to get much worse in the very near future," he said.

The event, which the Irish Examiner is a media partner to, earlier heard there were 8.4 billion Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices in the world at the end of 2018, with another 125 million set to connect before 2020.

IoT refers to devices that are connected to the internet, such as smartphones, fridges, lighting and wearable devices.

When things are connected, they are targets for hacking, he said. With IoT attacks still in their infancy, we can expect it to rise, Mr McArdle said.

"Everything in our world is getting more connected – and if it is connected, it can be hacked. 90% of all the data in the world was generated in the last two years. And what is the inbuilt human reaction when bombarded with so much information, uncertainty or threats? Fear.

"Fear is a major social problem as a response to the security threats and trends on the internet today, leading to increased anger, hate and suffering among humanity. The brain has had millions of years to evolve fight of flights response, but only 30 to evolve to the new deluge of information being thrown at it from the internet every day. And this overload is only going to increase," he said.

However, there were ways to combat it, the Star Wars and Avengers fan told the audience. Just like the superheroes in the blockbuster movies, assembling a competent team with diversity at its core is the key to defeating criminals.

Cybercrime is not a technology problem – it’s a human one. You are not defending against computers – you are defending against smart humans. And there is no better way to do that than to embrace differences and assemble an agile team with all sorts of world views, that can handle absolutely anything an attacker can throw at them.

"While this includes men, women and people from a diversity of backgrounds, it also means expanding beyond that, and embracing those who are not ‘neuro-typical’, for example, the autistic community, and other more neuro-diverse individuals," he said.

The event also saw presentations and panels on the circular economy and the future of work.

Tech Summit is the brainchild of voluntary tech group, IT@Cork, which represents 300 companies and 30,000 employees in the Cork region. IT@Cork is a blend of indigenous and international IT professionals from a range of companies.

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