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​Cybersecurity expert: NYSE, United stories "aren't over"

Computer glitches caused headaches nationwide for several major companies
Computer glitches caused headaches nationwide... 04:10

The biggest concern about being on the Internet isn't hacking -- it's the Internet itself.

"Virtually everything we do is online, from the way we interact with our banks to the institutions in the government ... whether it's the DMV, what have you," cybersecurity expert Michael DeCesare told CBS News. "As companies bring more systems online there are more vulnerabilities that get exposed as part of that process."

Wednesday's trio of digital meltdowns -- a software glitch that halted trading at the New York Stock Exchange, hardware issues that grounded hundreds of United Airlines planes, and the Wall Street Journal's website crashing -- underscored how much we rely on our online connections and how crippling it can be when they're severed, even temporarily.

By the year 2020 there will be 25 billion devices connected to the web. That's seven for every human being on Earth. And "every one of those is a potential place that's vulnerable...," said DeCesare, CEO of ForeScout, a network security firm.

"If you're in a hospital and you're being operated on, the devices that are operating on you are on the Internet. If you're driving in your car, while you're driving it's on the Internet. It's really incumbent upon the manufacturers that are designing these systems to make sure that their systems are designed with security," he said.

"If they're going to take our credentials, if they're going to take our medical information, it's their responsibility to keep those things safe."

In the same way you'd expect your sedan to come with airbags installed, we have to expect that companies will have safety measures in place -- not just to protect against hacking, but in case of good old fashioned technical difficulties.

With major breaches from Sony to OPM fresh in the collective mind, many are quick to suspect foul play. But a hair-trigger response overlooks a fundamental fact: Things break.

"Even in today's hack-ridden world, it's still possible to have code that breaks without outside intervention," David Gewirtz, a cyberwarfare advisor, told CBS News.

"I think what we're hearing from these organizations currently is the public relations side of their business," said DeCesare, referring to statements regarding United and the NYSE. "For a company to come out within one hour and say it wasn't a hack or it was a hack -- it's speculative at that point. The reality is that it takes time."

"I don't think these stories are over," he added. "I think over the upcoming days or weeks we're going to hear more about what the real cause was behind these for sure."

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