As time progresses our economy becomes continually more intertwined with our technology. For the time being, consumers will continue to shop at brick-and-mortar stores but online sales will steadily increase its share of the market into the foreseeable future. Investing and trading platforms will also be bolstered by ongoing improvements in applications and integration with smartphones and related devices. While the advantages are often highlighted as we are exposed to emerging technology, attention must be given to the new vulnerabilities created if we are to assure a smooth transition into the digital economy.
Viruses and other forms of malware are among the biggest types of threats posed against the online marketplace. The nature of online shopping requires personal information to be shared with various business entities. Customers are at risk of identity theft not only from unverified vendors but also from malicious advertising meant to steal information and install viruses. Oftentimes they can appear as a pop-up, disguised as a part of a website’s interface, delaying their detection and eventual removal. Marketplaces themselves can also be subjected to viruses, as many of them store customer data including credit card information. This hacker’s holy grail, if successfully accessed, can rob thousands
of customers of their personal information at once. Organized attacks like the 2016 Magecart campaign, which injected malware into payment services and compromised the businesses using them, can rob customers, destroy businesses, and as a byproduct produce a loss of faith in the system as a whole. Individual investors are similarly vulnerable, potentially with wider reaching consequences. Malware targeting stock trading software is an established threat to individuals, capturing their login information and stealing funds stored online that would otherwise be circulating in the market. The amount of money at stake inspires a variety of cyber-criminal activities, leaving Wall Street firms at risk. In April 2017, the global financial services firm KCG Holdings was targeted with malware, allegedly created by an employee, to steal their proprietary algorithm and gain their trading power. Wall Street Law firms have also been targeted to collector insider information, allowing hackers to over-represent themselves in securities trades. Any breach of cyber-security around Wall Street could have potentially catastrophic outcomes. A scenario in which our financial institutions are exploited in an act of cyber-terrorism is
entirely possible and could affect the global economy. Thankfully, for all of the criminals in the shadows, there are “ethical” hackers (also known as white hat
hackers) that are working with companies and governments to develop the future generations of cyberintelligence. Consumer confidence is integral to any healthy economy, and the more we rely on the digital space as the backbone of our economics, the more we have to lose if it isn’t secure. As the influence of the internet expands, so too will our investment in the protections necessary to counter the various incarnations of cyber-criminality.