Scale of cyber attacks makes UK consumers more wary of new technology

Image credit: cyber security

An upsurge in high-profile cyber attacks like the malware strike which rocked industries across Europe this week has dented consumer confidence in the latest gadgetry, researchers say.

The results of the survey, released as authorities continue to investigate the Petya-type malware strike, suggests that consumer confidence has been harmed by the attacks. Meanwhile, Nato has warned that cyber attacks could prompt a military response in future.

The survey by software specialist SQS indicated 48 per cent of UK consumers would not buy new AI-driven products like Amazon Echo and Google Home because of fears they would be hacked. According to the survey, nearly 60 per cent of those asked said they feared autonomous vehicles would be vulnerable to cyber criminals and only a small minority thought driverless cars would be safer than human-driven vehicles.

SQS chief executive Dik Vos said more focus should be placed on technology security to help ease concerns.

He said: “Safety concerns and cyber vulnerabilities should be the top priority for companies developing innovative technology, rather than added as an afterthought or worse, once catastrophe has already struck.”

The results of the survey of 2,000 people were released as the global scale of the most recent major computer virus attack continued to reveal itself.

Huge international organisations like Danish shipping firm Maersk, French manufacturer Saint-Gobain and the German postal service were among those hit. Ukraine’s national bank and the Metro system in the capital, Kiev, were among the institutions in the ex-Soviet eastern European state which suffered significant disruption.

Nato’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has told journalists that future cyber attacks could potentially lead to the triggering of a clause in the military alliance’s treaty stating an attack on one of its members is viewed as an attack on all – an announcement that marks a ramping up of the rhetoric around cybercrime.

A recent issue of Nato Review Magazine refers to the growing importance of cyber warfare in the “new Great Game” – a reference to proxy conflicts between Britain and Russia in the 1800s. There has long been concern in the Baltic states and other European Union countries close to the Russian border that the Kremlin could engage in a hybrid” conflict in which digital attacks would form a key part.

It is not known who was behind the latest unleashing of malware said to resemble “Petya”, a piece of malicious code which bars access to computer by encrypting its hard drive. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied his country was involved. However, the fact that Ukraine was by far the worst hit of all those countries affected means suspicion has fallen on Russia. 

The National Strategic Assessment, an annual public analysis of the nature and scale of organised crime compiled by the National Crime Agency, revealed that the primary threat to the UK from cyber crime continued to stem from Russian-speaking nations. However, it also added that there were indications that the threat was becoming increasingly global.

Arne Schoenbohm from the German government’s cybersecurity department said initial indications pointed to use in the latest string of attacks of malware which exploits the same weaknesses used in the WannaCry ransomware attack, the cyber assault that caused havoc in Britain’s National Health Service last month.

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