The fear of our technology turning against us keeps rising as the years go by, but cyber-attacks and the people behind them are the true threat. Hackers and cyber-criminals keep finding work, and their work is to steal from everyday people and corporations (and what they steal is more often than not consumer data). You can protect yourself and prepare for nearly any type of attack, but you need to have foresight and to invest the right resources.
Here are some of the major problems and threats you need to keep an eye out for in the coming year:
A staple of the cyber-crime industry is intercepting data on unprotected public networks. Hackers will often wait in cafes or other public buildings so that they can monitor the traffic occurring on such a network through a “sniffer” program. For the most part they will be able to see everything you send and receive online. This includes passwords, verification information, financial information and anything else you don’t want people to know. This information is intercepted, copied and sold to the highest bidder.
The best way to protect yourself from this particular threat in 2016 is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your device. It is a service that allows your computer (or smartphone) to connect to an offsite server using an encrypted connection. Not only will your connection be safe from anyone wanting to look in, people and organizations will not be able to know where you are because your IP address will be masked. All you need to do is find the best VPN for your future protection.
Scams (of All Sorts)
Before the internet scams mostly occurred on city street corners or through the mail. They weren’t the industrial scale operations runs from other countries that you see today. Millions of scams are attempted every day and enough of them are successful to make scamming people a thriving and viable criminal enterprise. The scams of the future will be much like the scams of today. They will only use different technology and language. Take the following advice regarding scams:
- If it sounds too good to be true on the internet, it certainly is. No one is going to give you free stuff. Your information is not worth a chance at a t-shirt or a gift card. Whatever physical deformity you perceive yourself to have isn’t going to be cured by a magic cream from a region of the world that doesn’t exist. Don’t trust anyone.
- If a friend is acting strange then their account might’ve been hacked. Try to contact them another way if they ask you for money or information.
- Most companies aren’t going to ask you for a password over the phone. If they push, then they probably aren’t with the company they are claiming to be with.
- Someone can know stuff about you just through an online search. Listing basic facts about your life doesn’t mean anything.
Smartphone Malware and Attacks
Smartphones aren’t so much phones any more as they are computers with calling options. You likely have as much private information on your smartphone as you do your home computer, and cyber-criminals are becoming increasingly aware of this. For this reason malware is being developed increasingly for smartphones. It is already used, but in 2016 we can start to expect mobile malware to be the norm instead of the exception.
To prepare yourself you are going to want to take similar measures that you (hopefully) take with your computer at home. You need to install some cyber-security apps and software on your smartphone for its protection. You also need to do a general checkup of your phone every once in a while and think about whether it is working as it should. Finally, you need to care about the websites you visit and the apps you download. There are plenty of apps that are just malware in disguise, especially if they are not on an official app store.
Large Scale Corporate Data Breaches
The best hackers don’t care about attacking you directly for your credit card information. It’s too much work for a single person’s identity. Cyber-criminals prefer to steal in bulk, even if it’s a tougher job with a higher risk factor. One of the most popular targets as of late seem to be health care providers, given the massive amount of patient data they have and their growing reputation of having poor security. Most other sectors of industry don’t fare much better.
This means that in 2016 the greatest chance of your data being stolen actually comes from something you have little control over. You can however lobby the companies you do business with to improve their cyber-security (or threaten to take your business elsewhere). If you work at a large company, you can check to see if the standards are up to date. If not, it might be a good idea to talk to your boss about it. Data breaches are not good for a company’s reputation.
Defenses are more readily available for the threats that we already have, which only means hackers are going to get bolder and more creative in their attempts to commit cyber-crime. Trends say that the above threats aren’t going away anytime soon, so you should be aware of them and be prepared to face them with increasing regularity. You can handle yourself online. You’ve done it thus far, and you’ll continue to be vigilant as you enjoy the benefits of the internet.
Do you have any pressing concerns for the coming year in terms of your technology? Have you heard other reports people should know about or have a personal story to tell about one of the above threats? If so, please leave a comment so that we can hear what you have to say. Also, please like this post or share it on social media so other people can learn what to look out for in the coming year.