Computer hacking in the information age

From universities to large banks, the threat of hacking should be taken seriously.

Daily Editorial Board

The age of the Internet and access to an endless amount of information has brought plenty of new risks along with its many
advantages.

The millennial generation, among others, has largely come to grips with the likelihood that their personal lives will never be entirely personal, and the knowledge that not taking precautions with passwords and usernames has dangerous consequences.

However, as more services, transactions, storage of data and other information is done online, the potential damage criminal computer hackers can do grows larger. Gone are the days when the worst things an insidious hacker could do was hack email accounts or wipe away a computer’s memory with a virus (as if those things weren’t bad enough).

The victims increasingly being targeted by skillful hackers are universities, large corporations and government agencies. The stakes are high as control over electrical power grids, gas lines and water systems can be hijacked by someone sitting at a computer miles away.

Some of the nation’s largest newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, have reported being targeted by hackers and have traced attacks back to an office tower halfway across the world in Shanghai. Lockheed Martin, the nation’s largest defense contractor, has also been a victim of hacking.

What this means is that institutions, including large research schools like the University of Minnesota, have to consider computer security just as much a priority as locking the doors at night and maintaining a strong police force. Leaders and policy makers from the state Legislature up to the U.S. Congress should be creating ways to standardize and ensure protection against cyber warriors both domestic and foreign.