According to cybersecurity company Symantec, the number of overall malware variants increased by 88 percent in 2017. This means that new threats are emerging every day and the risk around data security is continuously growing.
2018 saw a rising trend in data breach and exposures, with several sites and services exposed including Amazon, Polar fitness app, Canadian internet company Altima, FedEx, and Urban Massage.
The cybersecurity world is like a giant cat-and-mouse game. As the security threats become complicated, cybercriminals get better at implementing the attacks while security experts also become more adept at defending and preventing these threats.
Awareness is the first step in protecting yourself and your personal data against online threats. How do you defend against something you do not know? Knowing what these threats are and how they work will allow you to implement the necessary strategies and equip yourself with the best tools to fight the attacks.
With cybersecurity damage projected to hit $6 trillion annually by 2021, it is critical to understand the most significant cybersecurity threats and how to guard against them.
Threat #1: More Sophisticated Phishing Attacks.
Phishing involves sending out carefully targeted digital messages, usually in the form of emails, to fool people into clicking on a link that will install malware or steal the target’s data.
Gone are the days when we would receive emails from an ambassador or prince from who-knows-where, offering to send you his wealth if you would help him with a small financial problem. Thousands of people were tricked by the emails initially, but these emails are usually ignored now because people have become aware of the danger of mindless clicking.
Because of this, cyber criminals are forced to up the ante. They have learned to quickly draft less suspicious and more convincing messages in the hope that someone would still fall for their tricks.
Threat #2: Evolving Ransomware Strategies.
Ransomware damage in 2015 was pegged at $325 million, but it is expected to jump to $11.5 billion. Companies who are unlucky to fall victim to these attacks permanently lose a part or all of their company data.
Ransomware works just like your typical kidnap-for-ransom crime: criminals kidnap someone important to you and you need to pay ransom money for that person to be released. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the kidnappers would stick with the deal and release the victim after payment. This is the same with ransomware, except the criminals are hackers and the victim is your data.
Ransomware is usually distributed by clicking on malicious links or installing malicious apps that download the ransomware in the background. The criminals then encrypt your files and documents to hold them hostage until you pay the ransom. Even after you pay, though, the attackers merely send a fake decrypting key, which you can’t use to recover your files.This threat is going to be more prevalent this year as attackers become more proficient at distributing ransomware.
Threat #3: Increased IoT Attacks.
With the rise of smart technology, the Internet of Things is becoming more popular each day. According to a study by Statista.com, devices connected to the IoT are estimated to reach almost 31 billion in 2020.
These connected devices, such as household appliances, cars, manufacturing equipment, medical devices, smart watches, and smartphones, make our lives convenient and comfortable. IoT devices can also help businesses save money and time by streamlining their processes.
However, the more devices are connected to the IoT, the more opportunities there are for cyber attackers to exploit the vulnerabilities of these systems. Once these IoT devices are controlled by hackers, they can be used to harass people, create chaos, or lock down equipment.
Threat #4: Automobile Hacking.
Driverless cars are coming soon to the streets as car manufacturers are racing with each other to be the first to release one. But even without the driverless car in the picture, automobile hacking is likely going to be a common occurrence this year as connected cars rise in popularity. According to a recent industry report, almost 90 percent of new cars will be connected to the internet by 2020.
Connected cars use onboard sensors to improve the comfort of the passengers and optimize their operation. The sensor is usually connected to the internet and managed via smartphone integration. This evolution in the automobile industry is going to be another opportunity for cybercriminals to exploit. Insecure systems can result in sensitive data loss and even pose physical danger to drivers and passengers.
Threat #5: Cryptojacking Explosion.
Why do criminals attack banks? Because that’s where the money is. And it is the same with cryptomining. Cryptocurrency is becoming ubiquitous, and cybercriminals are taking advantage of this financial trend.
Cryptojacking is one of the biggest cyber threats of 2018 and it’s only going to get worse. Cryptojacking happens when hackers hijack third-party computers or other computing devices to “mine” for cryptocurrency. Cryptojacking can cause undue stress to your device’s processor, slow down performance, or lead to total hardware failure if not dealt with early.
According to security analysts, a third of all cyber attacks will be related to cryptojacking.
With all these up and coming cybersecurity threats, how do you protect your data?
The next step in protecting yourself against online threats is employing preventive measures. These threats are only threats when your computer gets infected. Your main objective would be to prevent malware and viruses from ever making it to your computer.
Here are some tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of any of these threats:
- Exercise caution when clicking on links on your email. Hackers are getting smarter by the second and they employ various ways to trick you into clicking their link or divulging your personal data.
- Use a reliable VPN when connecting via public Wi-Fi or hotspots. Attackers can use these free network connections to access your browsing history and other sensitive information.
- Use strong passwords for your online accounts. You can use a random password generator to create passwords that are hard to crack. Also, don’t forget to change your password regularly.
- Install, use, and update your antivirus software regularly. Having an antivirus adds a layer of protection to your system. Scan your system regularly for any malicious activity.
- Download and install updates for your operating system and apps. These updates usually include security patches to help protect your system against known threats.
- Create a backup of all your important files. In case your computer becomes inaccessible due to a cyber attack, you don’t have to worry much because you have a copy of everything you need.
- Don’t ignore physical security. Keep your computer locked when you’re not in front of it.
- Be on the lookout for new threats. Read cybersecurity forums and websites to keep yourself updated with the latest happenings in the online world. You can also read more tips on how to spot and defend against online threats.
Cyber threats are evolving every day, and being aware of new ones coming in is only the first step to stopping them. Being a step ahead of these threats makes the best defense. As they say, prevention is always better than cure.