5.2 Threats to IT systems
  1. What threats exist internally and externally to ICT systems?
  2. What is the difference between malpractice and crime?

No starter here. Move along please…




External threats to ICT Systems

External threats are threats that original outside of the organisation, from a wide variety of the sources.

Organised crime

Organised crime consist of highly organised and centralised groups who engage in wide variety of illegal enterprises, primarily for profit.

Organised crime include:

  • Money laundering
  • Hitmen
  • Racketeering
  • Fraud
  • Ransomware
  • Blackmarket goods (weapons / animal trade)



Hacking is where an individual or organisation attempt to access your system by exploiting a weakness in your company’s systems security.

Typical attack include:

  • Dictionary / default password exploitation attacks.
  • SQL injection attacks on poorly secured systems
  • Wifi encryption vulnerability attacks.

The end goal is usually to obtain confidential data from a website in order to either sell to third parties (e.g. credit card details) or to blackmail companies.


Scamming / Blackmail.

These take a variety of forms and include:

  • Phishing emails, designed to trick users in to divulging personal information through impersonating a bank / paypal etc.
  • Nigerian banking scam, tricking users in to sending money in the belief that they will be sent a large sum in return.


Natural Disasters

Its pretty obvious what would happen to your ICT system during a natural disaster.

Natural disasters include:

  • Earthquakes
  • Volcanoes
  • Tsunami

A program/file that can damage an ICT system and has the ability to replicate itself.

Viruses occur while transferring data from computer to computer via portable storage devices, email, or while downloading files from the Internet.

Stalking / Blackmail

On the internet people can hide behind the computer screen and be whoever they want to be. This means that we are vulnerable into being blackmailed and stalked on-line.

Blackmailing – the action of threatening someone for something in return of not revealing compromising information about them

Stalking – to follow someone stealthily anonymously

Organised Hooliganism


This section is more to do  with the activities of the community on-line and the effects in the real world.

generally people come together on social media to plan an act against another person, group or organisation for some humour. A good example of this is Habbo hotel which received a series of raids against it’s whole community as part of a denial of service attack for it’s users in 2006.

As a result, many of it’s users left and the company lost money

as a result of the attacks. Alternatively there are many cases

where the target is a person and this usually classes itself as

a form of cyber-bullying (See slide 4).

Identity theft
  • Common uses are: methods to gain a financial advantage or obtain credit and other benefits in the other person’s name.
  • Criminals will usually steal information documents such as a passport/driving licence or create a fake ID based on someone’s personal information.
  • Then they will commit a crime and hand these documents to the police so that the marks are not put on their own name to help keep their record clean.

Piracy causes great financial losses to producing companies. In an early May 2014 Guardian article, an annual loss figure of US$20.5 billion was cited for the movie industry.

  • Recordings of films and music are burned onto discs and illegally sold on at very cheap prices for willing customers to buy.
  • There are also illegal websites in which music and films can be downloaded free of charge or streamed across the internet allowing users to watch or listen to them without cost.

Terrorists are prominent on the internet due to the confidentiality that comes with it. They can safely use it as a method of communication. Terrorists exploit the internet for a variety of reasons.

  • Recruitment via forums
  • There’s no limit. Terrorists can use the web to send audio or graphics files in complete secrecy.
  • To harass or intimidate public authorities to make confessions.
  • To aggravate relations between states and nations
  • To free political prisoners and secure monetary ransoms
  • To polarize society.

Terrorism on the internet will most likely never die out as it’s such a

successful method to run operations in a classified nature.


Paedophiles are a threat mainly to uploading sites, such as YouTube or 9gag since they use the services to distribute illegal and immoral files, regardless of the rules of the server’s rules. This means that government organisations will target the sites where such content is uploaded and try to either force the site owners to remove the content or remove the site from the public domain.

The threat they cause is an indirect symptom of their activities but can cause a system to be disabled through government action or a strong community action

Accidental damage

This is one of the most likely risks to ICT systems, and can take a wide number forms, including

Spilling drinks on to ICT equipment

  • Accidentally unplugging essential equipment ( e.g. servers, network switches, cooling systems)
  • Dropping ICT equipment
  • Mis-configuring systems ( leaving security holes, or allowing subsequent damage)



Sabotage is an attempt to break, render unusable or otherwise deliberately alter the functionality of equipment in order to negatively affect an organisation or individual.

Sabotage can take a wide number of forms but can include:

  • Deliberately breaking IT equipment.
  • Disabling safeguards on IT equipment, allowing for damage to incurred to security / privacy to be adversely affected.
  • Using strong encryption to render files unreadable / computers unusable.
  • Deliberately installing malware or altering software to impairing the functioning of equipment.

Depending on the nature/severity of the sabotage, it can be either malpractice, a crime or merely job protectionism.


Equipment misuse

This is where company equipment is used for a purpose other than that it was intended for. Examples include:

  • Using Facebook at work.
  • Using your company laptop to play games instead of work.
  • Hiring / selling company issued equipment.
  • Failing to take reasonable precautions when using company equipment, that leads to loss / damage.
Employee fraud

Most modern businesses are money away from cash and towards electronic commerce. Whilst this can limit some forms of crime it can open up a business to fraud.

As a business’s finances become increasingly electronic can make keep track of finances more difficult, and this opens a business up to employee fraud.

Rogue Traders


Not all threats to ICT systems are crimes, and even when they are it is not always clear who is criminally responsible and who is merely  guilty of malpractice.

For each of the case studies, you should write a report, including:

  • What happened
  • Was the threat internal or external
  • Malpractice or crime
    • It is was malpractice – what action would be taken?
    • It is was a crime – which laws were potentially broken?
  • What security flaw was exposed
  • What can be done to stop it happening again / reduce it’s effects