30% chance to become a victim of a cyber attack in 2019 — until you are prepared!
With the advancement of information and communication technology, issues related to cybersecurity and internet security in particular have become the greatest concern all over the world. According to recent studies, the number of cyber attack victims and threats to cyberspace has increased dramatically. One of the most popular types of cyber attacks in 2018 was the one using ransomware. It once again illustrates that the development of new technology often brings new threats.
Internet security threats, such as identity thefts and data breaches, are evolving. Governments and organizations worldwide are turning their focus on how to manage these internet security threats and deal with the aftermath of cyber attacks. The good thing is that the data protection software and the mainstream antivirus solutions are becoming highly sophisticated, too.
Internet security in figures
• The United States of America is the number one target for cyber attacks again. At its current rate, it is expected that more than half of all data breaches globally will occur in the United States next year.
• 12 billion data records were stolen by cyber-criminals in 2018.
• Among the top 5 countries suffering from the internet security issues, India is 2nd, Japan is 3rd, Taiwan is 4th, and Ukraine is 5th. The number of targeted cyber attacks depends on a variety of factors, including politics and macro-economics.
• Global cyber attacks through mobile malware are on the rise and have increased by around 60% (as confirmed by a few independent research studies).
• The number of FBI’s most wanted cybercriminals has increased to 42 people and groups in 2018, from just a few in 2014.
• Because of the increasing number of internet threats, 3.5 million new cybersecurity jobs are going to be created by 2021.
• The cost of cybersecurity worldwide in 2018 was around $100 billion. The total loss and potential loss, including reputation and intellectual property loss, is estimated to reach trillions of USD.
• Over 90% of all internet security issues launched with a phishing email.
• The damage regarding cybercrime is estimated to hit $6 trillion annually by 2021.
Some of the experiences in 2018
According to the FBI report, more than 4000 ransomware attacks occur daily. It is estimated that 230,000 new malware samples are produced daily.
The greatest DDoS attack occurred in February 2018 and targeted Github.
In April 2018, the Caribbean nation of Sint Maarten was attacked by hackers who managed to penetrate the network system and cause a total public shutdown for an entire day.
The city of Atlanta experienced a ransomware attack that lasted for two days. The city lost nearly $3 million within a short period of time while trying to respond.
In the United States, many of the cities managed to attain the status of “smart city” in 2018. Ironically, Dallas, Baltimore, Charlotte, and San Francisco fell victims to cyber attacks during the past year. The smart city concept has created connectivity by using data and technology to improve people's lives. Even though the smart city concept succeeded in connectivity, there was not enough cybersecurity, therefore, the technology created some serious internet security vulnerabilities.
Advanced Persistence Threat (APT)
APTs represent the most lethal vectors of attack on networks. A third party illegally penetrates the targeted network to gain unauthorized access and remain undetected for a lengthy period of time. APTs employ sophistication methods to penetrate the network and remain undetected within it, including zero-day vulnerability and bespoke software back doors. A salient characteristic of APTs is the attackers’ patience. The hackers are always careful enough to stealthily enter into the network and cover their trails. After penetrating the network, the attackers would exercise patience and would remain within the network until they achieve their intended goals. Most often, the bodies planning, funding, and running APTs have strategic intent behind the attack, making it very dangerous. This attack usually soils the image of the affected organization as well as tampers with the operation of the organization. APTs take advantage of shadow IT loopholes, human error, and poor IT hygiene. All networks are at risk of this type of attack.
Denial of Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)
Denial of service prevents rightful users of the network from accessing the network or some items within it. DoS usually occurs when the hacker intentionally overloads an application or a website. When overloaded, the application cannot effectively deliver its content to the legitimate users. DDoS is carried out using multiple computers, thus is hard to prevent. A perfect example is a well-known global security network attack that greatly leveraged IoT devices, including surveillance cameras. In most DDoS attacks, computer devices do not usually belong to the attacker. Rather, the attacker compromises other users’ computers and other IoT devices, to complete this attack. DDoS is difficult to identify and defend since it comes from different IP addresses.
Addressing internet security concerns globally
• Use of red team attack simulation
To address the flaws in the network as well as the skill gap, many organizations can turn to security service providers to test the effectiveness of their network security. The agents are usually allowed to conduct staged attacks to test the network weakness of a company. This team conducts focused offensive actions on the organization’s network system, data, and applications. In case a weakness is found, those external specialists work together with the internal security team to fix the issue. Organizations can also use automated attack simulation with the ability to follow up immediately with remediation.
• Proper internet security policy and procedures
Every modern organization should develop a security policy and procedures that tell the employees and other stakeholders how to handle the most common internet security issues. Network security policy and procedure will act as both a prevention and a mitigation measure to the network security threats.
• Training the employees on internet security measures
It is often the cheapest but the most important mitigation measure. Mostly, hackers get the opportunity to penetrate the system through the employee’s end. Most employees in most companies know little about internet security measures. Such people may be prone to making mistakes which the hackers happily use. For example, employees should know how to behave when they receive an email that looks suspicious.
• Installing firewalls and updating software regularly
The organization should use the latest internet security and antivirus software and always watch out for any released patches to ensure that the firewalls are up to date. Firewalls can protect the computer network against many types of malware. The company should also update all its server software to ensure that there are no weak points in the network that hackers can leverage.
Tips for personal internet security
• Being alert is the best way to prevent cyber attacks. You need to remember that it can happen to anyone anytime. Expect it to happen!
• Always use strong and unique passwords for every website or online account. Using the same password for multiple websites/accounts is not a reliable password management practice.
• You should be careful enough when clicking on attachments or links in your emails. Mouseover the link to see that website’s address first. In case you are not sure, search for website reviews before visiting it directly.
• Never leave your computer, laptop, cellphone, or any other personal internet device unattended. Always lock them up.
• Use good quality antivirus software and keep it updated. Try to avoid any free and unknown antivirus software; also stay away from hacked versions of popular antivirus programs – they are usually stuffed with viruses.
• Share less sensitive information and keep a backup of your data. Do not enter your personal details if you are not obligated to do so.
• Be cautious while you are browsing for any banking or shopping purposes, and make sure you are using your own device.
• Try to keep all your applications up to date.
• Use two-factor authentication (2FA) and prepare its recovery options.
• You can store a password in a text file, but make sure that the file is hidden, plus use some encryption rules (for example, you only read every third symbol of a text string, etc.).
• When intending to visit any important internet accounts, like banking, government portals, shopping websites, etc., make sure the address is correct.
• Do not provide any personal or financial data to a website without a current SSL certificate (website's address starts with https).