Why Cybersecurity Risks Are on the Rise and What to Do about It
As if the virus that took down the world in 2020 wasn’t enough, digital viruses suddenly rose with cybersecurity risks at an all-time high.
According to Cybercrime Magazine, “If it were measured as a country, then cybercrime – which is predicted to inflict damages totaling $6 trillion USD globally in 2021 – would be the world’s third-largest economy after the U.S. and China. Cybersecurity Ventures expects global cybercrime costs to grow by 15 percent per year over the next five years, reaching $10.5 trillion USD annually by 2025, up from $3 trillion USD in 2015.”¹
Experts even believe cybercrime will soon become more profitable than the global trade of all major drugs combined.²
Cybercriminals are getting smarter, too. During the 2020 pandemic, they quickly seized the opportunity of the sudden at-home workforce and wreaked havoc.
For instance, LinkedIn has turned into a cybercriminal hotspot. In April 2021, they suffered a massive data leak affecting 500 million users with personal information being scraped from the site.
What’s worse than millions of people’s personal information being scraped is finding out what they actually did with the personal information.
Analytics Insight reports, “All these databases of people and companies were posted for auction by the group of hackers on their popular website for a four-figure sum. Several hackers are creating high-level profiles on LinkedIn to connect with other potential victims efficiently.”³
For the most part, cybersecurity risks exist because criminals are motivated by financial gains.
For example, malicious individuals will sell hacked personal data.
A data security specialist told the Wall Street Journal, “If someone wants to find my Social Security number, it will take them exactly $3 and five minutes.”⁴
In this same article, Elvis Chan, a supervisory special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who investigates cyber intrusions, says, “Every American person should assume all of their data is out there” because of the numerous high-profile data breaches in recent years.⁵
In addition to the cybercrime on LinkedIn, other recent cybercrimes have been even more terrifying.
In February 2021, a hacker gained access to a Florida town’s water system remotely – and tried to poison the water.
Analytics Insight reports, “The hacker entered into Oldsmar’s water treatment system twice at 8 am as well as at 1.30 pm. The malicious hacker increased the level of sodium hydroxide and Lye to over 100 times its normal level.”⁶
And, we can’t move on without mentioning the ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline, where the “cyberattack created history by shutting down the gasoline pipeline system once in its 57-year history,” and causing Americans on the East Coast to ration gas.⁷
Cybersecurity risks are real. If you aren’t taking steps to protect your devices, you’re a sitting duck for cybercriminals.
Read on to learn more about cybersecurity risks and how to protect yourself.
Why Cybersecurity Risks Are Rising
Essentially, the pandemic created the perfect environment for cybercriminals to test their skills and strengthen their powers.
With millions of companies switching to virtual remote work overnight, most were not protected against cybersecurity risks as they would be in an office with a full IT department.
Moreover, all of the IT work suddenly had to take place remotely, which defeated the purpose many times.
For example, Maritime Executive reports, “Since OEM [original equipment manufacturer] technicians have a harder time traveling to service systems on board ships and rigs, they are increasingly making ‘remote’ service calls that require the operator to bypass security protections – creating an opening for a cyberattack.”⁸
The global workforce essentially shifted to a cloud, which left entire clouds vulnerable.
Cybersecurity risks are also growing exponentially due to ransomware payouts.
Criminals have learned they can hold data hostage for huge sums of money, such as the Colonial Pipeline situation.
According to Panda Security, “Ransomware is one of the most common threats to any organization’s data security, and this threat will continue to increase and evolve as a top cybersecurity trend in 2021.
“In 2020, ransomware attacks were more expensive than the average data breach, costing $4.44 million on average.
“The sophistication of techniques criminals are using is growing, too. There’s an increasing emphasis on extortion attacks, where criminals steal a company’s data and encrypt it so they can’t access it. Afterward, cybercriminals will blackmail the company, threatening to release its private data unless a ransom is paid.”⁹
How Cybersecurity Affects Everyone
It can be easy to view cybersecurity risks as only affecting large companies. But that simply isn’t true.
Even if your data was not stolen during the Colonial Pipeline hack, you felt it in your wallet as gas prices rose.
If you haven’t noticed meat prices on the rise, you are about to. This is because “all of JBS’s U.S. Beef Plants were forced shut by a cyberattack” in May.¹⁰
These are big hacking events, but they have a trickle-down effect.
While it may seem like cybercriminals are going after corporations or businesses, they are also going after individuals.
The data they get from these large companies may be your personal data that they can then sell on the dark web.
Cybersecurity Risks for the Little Guy
It can be easy to dismiss concerns over cybersecurity because it hasn’t happened to you. What if we told you that it likely already has?
There may be cybersecurity risks you aren’t even aware of.
For instance, the 2020 Xfinity Cyber Health Report released the following findings:
- “95 percent of survey respondents underestimated the volume of attacks they face each month. The average volume indicated by respondents was 12 attacks per month. In reality, xFi Advanced Security blocks nine times that amount or an average of 104 security threats per month per household.”
- “96 percent of consumers surveyed were not familiar with how to answer six basic true/false cyberthreat questions.”
- “A clear majority (64 percent) admitted to behaviors like sharing passwords with friends and family that open themselves up to attack.”
- “More than 4 in 5 consumers (83 percent) would not be 100 percent confident they’d know if one of their non-screen devices – such as a wireless printer or security camera – had been hacked.”¹¹
To put it bluntly, the more devices you own and the more time you spend on the internet put you more at risk for cybercrimes.
[Related: 14 Online Fraud Prevention Tips]
What to Do about It
It isn’t all doom and gloom. There are several steps you can take to protect yourself and your family against common cybersecurity risks.
Check your passwords now.
The first thing to do is check your passwords now.
If you have been notified by a business that it was hacked, go ahead, and change your password.
If you haven’t received a notification, take advantage of Google’s Security Check.
Simply open your Google Account and navigate to the Security Tab. There is a section titled “Security Issues Found.” Click this box to see any cybersecurity risks affecting your account, such as compromised passwords.
Use better password tools.
Even if your password check turns out fine, it is wise to start using better password tools.
In the past, the biggest piece of advice was to use a strong password.
But, according to Google, “Many people believe that a password should be as long and complicated as possible – but in many cases, this can actually increase the security risk. Complicated passwords tempt users into using them for more than one account; in fact, 66% of Americans admit to using the same password across multiple sites, which makes all those accounts vulnerable if any one falls.”¹²
Nowadays, there are many more sophisticated ways to protect a password, such as using 2-factor authentication.
In addition, it is wise to consider paying for a secure password manager or even investing in a security key.
Don’t autosave personal information.
Yes, it is convenient to not have to type in your address, birthdate, or credit card information every time you want to make an online purchase.
However, it won’t seem so convenient when you are the victim of a cybercrime.
Avoid public Wi-Fi.
Another convenience to avoid is public Wi-Fi, which is especially vulnerable to cybersecurity risks.
Most cybersecurity professionals recommend using a VPN when you are away from home.
However, even VPNs fell victim to the cybercrimes of 2020.
According to Panda Security, “VPNs are proving inadequate in 2021 and beyond. […] Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA) has emerged as a more secure option for controlling remote access to sensitive data and reducing the likelihood of an attack. By 2023, 60% of businesses will phase out of VPNs and transition to ZTNA.”¹³
Sign up for security alerts.
Most banks and credit card companies offer security alerts that will alert customers if there appears to be suspicious activity.
All you need to do is sign up for alerts to receive a text or phone call when a suspicious purchase is made.
Invest in web security tools.
Antivirus solutions, malware, and firewalls help reduce cybersecurity risks on your devices and are well worth the costs.
Run system updates.
We’ve all received an alert for a system update and ignored it because we didn’t want to interrupt whatever we were doing on our device. This is a mistake.
Security updates are designed to protect against the newest cybersecurity risks.
Continually educate yourself.
Possibly one of the best ways to protect yourself against cybersecurity risks is to continue to educate yourself.
Cybersecurity risks change and evolve constantly, so it is important to stay informed and know the best ways to protect your personal information.
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