Each year, we see that cyber attacks are on the rise as malicious actors online become more and more savvy and skilled at their craft. Hackers are constantly looking for unprotected vulnerabilities to take advantage of, scammers are regularly trying to determine how they can dupe more and more folks out there, and ransomware gangs continue to figure out new ways to hold our data hostage for a payment of some kind. Whether you are well-versed in the world of cybersecurity threats or if all of this information is new to you, below we will take a look at some of the major threats in the online world for you to be aware of in 2023 so that you can avoid them and have a safe year.
The Verizon Wireless Data Breach Investigations Report of 2022 looked at 23,896 incidents over a year’s time, of which 5,212 were confirmed data breaches. A data breach occurs when a malicious actor breaks into (or breaches) the network of a business and obtains crucial data, often including personally identifiable information (PII) such as birthday, address, financial information, and social security numbers, among other information.
As a consumer, we can not necessarily do anything to avoid a data breach occurring, however, we can take some measures to protect ourselves such as not creating accounts with any companies we do not know well and being sure to use unique passwords for each login, so if one account is involved in a breach, others are not affected.
For businesses to avoid a data breach, there are some steps that should be implemented now to help lessen the likelihood of attack. Business owners should be sure to constantly monitor networks for any strange activity and have strong cybersecurity teams ready to respond to such threats with haste. Additionally, as with most cyber threats, your employees can either be your best resource or worst vulnerability, so be sure to educate them on your security expectations and inform them of what action they can take should they come across a potential security concern. Another crucial step to take in securing against data breaches is to be sure to work only with other companies that have strong cybersecurity standards and practices themselves - working with a company that does not utilize strong cybersecurity defenses not only has terrible optics, but it leaves a door open for cybercriminals and is an unnecessary vulnerability that can easily be avoided by working with companies who have a strong cybersecurity footing.
The Internet of Things is a catchall term to describe all of the devices in the world that are connected to the Internet or able to be connected to the Internet - this obviously includes things like laptops and smartphones, but goes beyond that to include things like smart baby monitors, fitness trackers, and AI machinery, just to name a few. These devices typically make our lives easier in one way or another and allow for improvements in data collection so that we get the most out of our devices - for example, smart glucose monitors update users in real time what their current glucose levels are as opposed to the old way of having to manually check their glucose whenever they were curious what the levels were. Though these devices do allow for improvements to our lives, they also have to be properly protected in order to avoid any shortcomings in the way of vulnerabilities. With Internet-connectivity, comes the online threats we know of when operating on a laptop or computer.
To best protect yourself from these issues, there are a few steps to take. IoT devices often come with a multitude of features such as a microphone, camera, bluetooth, and more; protect yourself from any vulnerabilities by turning off any of these features which you do not need in order to use the device properly. If you don’t need a microphone, don’t leave that as an active entryway into your device. Additionally, always keep your devices up-to-date when an operating system update becomes available. These updates often come with improvements in user-friendliness with the devices, but more importantly, with safety improvements - when manufacturers detect a vulnerability in their devices, they push out updates in order to better protect their customers. It is a quick and easy step that can make a world of difference.
Ransomware saw growth of 13% from 2020 to 2021 and it is expected to continue to rise. This particular cyber attack occurs when a malicious actor infects a victim, usually a business, with a malware variant and utilizes their ill-obtained access to the network to take the data, encrypt it, and hold it for ransom. The threat to the company is that their data will be taken and unavailable to them, causing major issues with operations and a major distrust from other key players such as third-party vendors and customers. Some ransomware gangs even will sell stolen data on the dark web if the ransom is not forked over by the victims. Many times, victims of ransomware have to pay massive sums in order to regain access to their data and they do so so that they do not get behind on their operations and they have access to their essential data. Paying the ransom and any downtime caused by the attack are obviously quite costly to a business. Avoid such an attack by implementing strong cyber defenses now, before an attack strikes. Use a strong firewall to help monitor your networks for any strange activity. You’ll also want a plan for how to continue operating in the event of a ransomware attack, should it occur - for this, you will want to ensure you have backups of your essential data stored on a separate network from your main operating one; be sure to update your backups often in order to have the most recent data to work with should an attack occur.
In 2023 as always, be sure to use resources available to you to help keep you secure and safe. Be it your work's IT department, a tech savvy friend, or your friendly local cybersecurity professionals, ask questions when you have them to avoid these and other top threats.
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