Computer security continues to be a highly complex discipline as the threats grow in sophistication, are better organized and harder to detect. The consequences of undetected computer security breaches not only cost millions each year, but are now impacting the infrastructure and security of countries worldwide.

The following are five key computer security challenges for 2013, as outlined by Tom Cross, director of security research at Lancope, a security software firm.

State-sponsored espionage and sabotage of computer networks

Current security technologies have proven to be unsuccessful at preventing the newest, most sophisticated threats to computer systems. A study by Symantec found 18 undisclosed security vulnerabilities that were used to target computer networks in the wild for up to 30 months before they were discovered. Cross suggests new tactics need to be developed that focus on the behavior of software, systems and actors on the network.

“New strategies are clearly needed to fight advanced attacks,” Cross said. “Looking for known malware and attacks that target known vulnerabilities is not effective in this context because we don’t know exactly where the next vulnerability will be found or what the next attack will look like.”

Monster DDoS attacks 

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks have been around for a while and are still being used, but the size of the attacks grows. The DDoS mitigation firm Prolexic reported an 88% increase in the number of DDoS attacks launched in Q3 2012 compared to a year earlier. In the fall of this year, the websites of several large U.S. financial firms were disrupted by a DDoS attack that reportedly exceeded 60 Gbps ? much larger than the typical 5-10 Gbps attack.

The loss of visibility and control created by IT consumerization and the cloud

The cloud may be the latest buzzword when it comes to boosting efficiency and lowering IT costs for businesses, but it also presents new computer vulnerabilities. With the cloud, organizations lose control over their computer systems and data. Plus, with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs, IT is losing control over the software load, configuration and patch level of network endpoints. Cross suggests that organizations demand more network visibility with greater security controls and audit trails.

The password debacle

In 2012, Zappos, LinkedIn, eHarmony,, Yahoo Voice and Formspring all had breaches through passwords that were compromised. “The fact is that passwords, as a security technology, are reaching the end of their useful life,” Cross writes. Alternative authentication systems are needed, yet are incredibly difficult. Users need to pick longer passphrases and organizations should proactively audit networks for weak passwords.

The Insider Threat

While insider threats are generally considered a high-consequence, low-frequency risk, still many IT organizations have found it challenging to develop effective programs that manage that risk. Even concerns over the WikiLeaks situation failed to create much of a response, Cross says. IT departments need to be able to put in place precautions to prevent insider intrusions of valuable data.

-Chandler Harris

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.