5 Cyber Security Issues That You Need To Be Aware Of In 2016
Over the past couple of years, the number of cyber attacks against firms has increased in frequency and number of targets, ranging from relatively small companies like Carphone Warehouse to high-profile corporations like Ashley Madison, Sony and Valve. The fact that the attacks on Valve’s Steam storefront were allegedly done out of mischief instead of profit or protest shows that no one is safe from online threats. It shows that cybersecurity is a very important matter and must be taken seriously by everybody.
At present, we need to toughen ourselves for even more cybersecurity issues as 2015 proves that rapid advancements in technology also lead to new exploits and loopholes, a large number of which still need to be addressed. So for 2016, here are a number of cyber security issues that should not be taken lightly:
#1 The Internet Of Things And How It Can Be Used For Botnet Attacks
“The Internet of Things” is a buzz phrase that people have been using for common appliances that has the ability to connect to the Internet. These include smart TVs, clocks that automatically adjust their time by accessing your Wi-Fi, and baby monitors that can be checked remotely through the Internet, among others.
The first initial rumors of consumer devices being infected by malware started early last 2014, and it was poo-pooed by many security firms. Symantec tried to disprove the rumors but in the same piece admitted that IoT devices are indeed capable of being infected and used maliciously.
The possibility was soon proven to be a reality with Incapsula releasing a report pointing to a steep rise in the number of botnet activity originating from compromised CCTV cameras. Imagine how many online-enabled CCTV cameras there are in the world and add that to the already massive botnets that are in operation. That’s not even counting the possibility of other IoT devices being compromised. If CCTV cameras are vulnerable, who’s to say that the CPUs in smart watches, smart baby rockers, Wi-Fi-enabled toasters, and VR headsets aren’t vulnerable as well?
…and speaking of Botnets:
#2 Botnets For Rent
The past couple of years saw the number of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks increase. This is not because of new exploits found or poor security on the end of the targets. This is due to the fact that hackers have now started renting out botnets. Any random kid with a PayPal or Bitcoin fund can pay to take down online storefronts and websites from billion-dollar corporations at a time when they are most vulnerable. The loss in revenue and the PR disaster from a couple of hours of downtime is definitely worth more than the couple of dozen bucks a bored kid would spend on a leased botnet.
#3 Increased Stakes In War Against Cyber Terrorism
There is word going around that large security firms from the U.S. and Israel are already in talks with different government agencies such as the Telecom and Information Technology Ministry and Ministry of Home Affairs. This hints that the government is boosting the country’s cyber security mechanism. On the one hand, it is a positive thing that a country is increasing its protection. On the other hand, it is a reminder of just how serious cyber security has become these days.
It’s no longer just a person’s finances or private information that it’s in danger. Now, wars are being fought through cyber attacks and an entire country’s (and by extension, its citizen’s) security can be compromised by a single cyber terrorist, without a single bullet even being fired.
#4 Loss Of Trust In Institutions And Firms That Should Be Protecting Your Data
The Ashley Madison breach that occurred last year was a huge wake up call to millions of consumers with regard to just how safe their privacy is online. Cyber-attacks that hold no monetary gain for hackers are being done in alarming numbers. Even firms that exist solely to combat cybercrime are not safe. This is proven by the embarrassing news stating that popular software company BitDefender was breached last year. The usernames, passwords and other personal data of its massive user base was held for ransom.
#5 The Role Of The User When It Comes To Security Breaches.
It’s a bit inaccurate to say that this is an issue only made apparent this year, because it’s always been the issue ever since security became a “thing.” People should still remember that the tightest security solutions in existence would not mean a thing if the user is misinformed and prone to committing the most egregious security faux pas on a regular basis.
A large number of compromised systems or stolen information were made possible not by poorly-structured code or vulnerabilities in hardware design. It was made possible by a user who clicked on a suspicious-looking link on an email, gave away private information on social media, or visited shady sites hosting illegal content. The key takeaway is that cyber security is ultimately the responsibility of a user. There’s no magic software or hardware redundancy that can address security holes opened by an end user too lazy to read up on security best practices.
What More Can You Expect…
We’re only on the first month so it’s expected that there are still noteworthy issues that have yet to surface. Microsoft just rolled out Windows 10 en masse last year, and it’s a free upgrade so the market penetration is a lot more varied, to encompass even users who would normally not upgrade. It’s something that we should pay attention to as even now new issues are cropping up both in terms of unintentional privacy issues and intentional ones.
What is important is to remember that keeping abreast of developments and news is part of protecting oneself. Even those of us who live and breathe cyber security could benefit from keeping our ears close to the ground. An active, informed user can be part of security’s best practices. Here’s to a happy and secure 2016!