As more of the real world becomes integrated with the Internet, the threats continue to rise. Aspects of life that were once thought of sacred and safe can easily be turned into a weapon. Even the most innocent of devices can be used for nefarious purposes.
Many organizations around the world are working hard to prevent against hackers by improving protection. Unfortunately, those with programming skills are still wreaking havoc on a worldwide scale.
In a turn of irony while researching this article, I stumbled across a website about hacking statistics that is hacked itself. Luckily, my firewall stopped the attempt. However, it goes to show that even innocent looking content has potential to infect your computer or be used to steal information.
Here are 10 reasons why everyone should worry about hackers in 2017 and beyond. The cyber world is far more dangerous than many would like to believe.
Worry #1: Hackable IoT Devices
The Internet of Things offers a great deal of convenience. Who doesn’t want to be able to start his or her coffee pot from across town? Unfortunately, it also creates a wide range of threats. Can you imagine your smart television or a fridge acting as a weapon against you in your own home?
In October of 2016, one of the largest Internet outages in US history took place. The origin of this attack was that from an IoT botnet. In layman’s terms, everything from surveillance cameras to televisions may have been used to attack the Dyn servers. As a result, a vast portion of Internet websites was gone in the United States.
This prompts the question behind how “smart” are smart-enabled devices. Unfortunately, there are no current regulations to prevent the IoT from becoming a digital weapon of mass destruction. Almost anything that connects to the Internet has potential to be a target.
Worry #2: Shutting Down the Website Can Hurt Reputation
Your online reputation plays just as vital of a role for success as the real world. As more people are using search engines to find local businesses, the website is important in attracting attention. When the site is compromised and removed from the web, people will form a negative opinion about the organization.
Visitors aren’t the only ones who can be dissuaded from accessing a website that shows a 404 error instead of content. If a search engine tries to crawl your pages and the site is inaccessible because of a hack attack, it can begin to score poorly in search results. The longer the site spends offline, the worse your reputation can become.
This is especially true if you’re running an eCommerce site. People want to shop for goods now, and most will simply go to a competing outlet to find those products. Very few customers will wait for the website to become live again, which hurts your overall bottom line.
Worry #3: Hacking the Vehicle You Drive
In 2015, a pair of hackers demonstrated how easy it is to hijack a vehicle remotely. As a result, Chrysler recalled 1.4 million vehicles to repair the bug. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of a very large, and very frightening, iceberg.
Can you imagine driving down the highway and the car suddenly veering into oncoming traffic? What about if it suddenly accelerates and smashes into the car in front of you? Scenarios like these are not as unlikely as many might think. Because of the integration of computer networking within a vehicle and its access to the Internet, things like these can easily be accomplished by the right people.
Fortunately for those of us who drive older vehicles, we don’t have to worry about such attempts. However, there will come a time when we’ll need to upgrade to newer automobiles. Makes you carefully consider using the bus, right? That is, unless the bus is hackable as well.
Worry #4: Smart Home for the Smart Hacker
How smart is your home? The researchers at the University of Michigan show just how easy it is to gain access to the front door without touching a thing. The old days when crooks had to use thin metal picks to open a lock are fading away. Now all it takes is the right malware app to gain entry.
That’s not the only part of the home that is a target, though. Thermostats, smart televisions, web cams and more within the home all have potential to work against you. Bear in mind that if you’re able to adjust the thermostat of the house from work, a hacker might be able to as well.
While some of these attacks are nothing more than a nuisance, consider how much damage a hacked appliance can cause to your utility bills. Even your login information for services such as Netflix or Hulu can be stolen from smart TVs.
Worry #5: Business Information Ripe for the Picking
A lot of business owners move a great deal of their information and procedures to the website. This is to help enhance efficiency as employees as well as owners can access this data from virtually anywhere. Unfortunately, this also means that there is greater opportunity to become a target.
If you own an online store, it’s not just your information that is at risk. What about that of your customers? Can you safely say that you’re taking their best interests to heart while maintaining your online store? With every new customer, that is one more person you have to shield from identity theft or other forms of victimizing.
Online shopping isn’t the only platform that can put user information at risk. Everything from hosting services to trouble tickets may have confidential information that needs to be protected, usually by installing SSL on a hosting account. Even something as small as a mailing list derived from email accounts of your visitors can find its way into the hands of those who want to capitalize on the data.
Worry #6: Cyber Criminals Holding Data Hostage
Ransomware is not necessarily a new thing. This is when an application prevents access to data unless a payment is made. You may have seen variations of this in the form of “anti-virus” programs that tell you the computer is infected and asks for you to buy its “premium” service.
In recent times, however, ransomware has become increasingly popular. In a past survey of more than 500 organizations, half of them were attacked by this kind of software. One of the most notable is that of the health industry. According to data, 88 percent of ransomware attacks are on hospitals. This is because of the nature of the data and the immediate life-or-death threat these attacks promote.
Hospitals are not the only facilities that are being targeted by the criminal element. Educational facilities are also being forced to pay to release information. For instance, the Los Angeles Valley College paid a $28,000 ransom to release email and the computer network in the beginning of 2017.
As more personal information is saved onto servers, the threat of ransomware continues to grow. That’s because the criminal element knows that a large portion of people will pay to prevent loss or gain access to that data.
One way to get around paying ransomware is to keep current backup copies of data stored in a secondary location. For example, creating a backup of a website can easily give you a chance to recover from any malware or hacking attack.
Worry #7: Eavesdropping By More than the NSA
Thanks to hacking, conversations and data are accessible to more than just the NSA. Everything from voice communications to sending text messages can be snatched just as easily as reaching into a mailbox and grabbing a letter from Grandma.
Does your television have voice activation enabled? If so, it may have potential to be used as a listening device by the criminal element. Even as I write this post, I throw the occasional look back at my TV wondering if someone is bored enough to sit and listen to me watch Netflix.
Stealing data has been around as long as email itself. It’s the extent in the data usage we use today that posses such a serious problem. In reality, how many people would consider their alarm clock to monitor them in the middle of the night? Although the walls are not able to talk, the technology is able to listen.
Worry #8: Everything Moving to the Cloud
According to statistics, Cloud-based computing services make more than $200 billion per year. More information and access is being put into the Internet to control everything from personal apps to business procedures. Because of this influx, it’s more important than ever to put the best security practices in place.
Almost everyone uses some kind of Cloud-based computing in one form or another. Whether you’re creating a blog using WordPress or manage your finances with online banking, it’s all saved in the digital world. As Cloud services expand, even more information will be available to the hacking community.
Don’t get me wrong, Cloud-based services have their place to make life easier and businesses more efficient. It’s the price we have to pay to make life easier to manage from every perspective. Luckily, most organizations use high levels of security and virtually impenetrable security measures. Unfortunately, not every service provider takes such precautions.
Worry #9: Shutting Down Life as We Know It
Hacking doesn’t have to be centered around stealing personal data or crashing websites. In December of 2015, a Ukrainian power station was disabled thanks to the efforts of a hack. As a result, more than 230,000 residents were without power. This was after the backup power supplies were disabled as well.
Although instances like this one are rare, it does show just how vulnerable society is becoming. This is more than just a mere inconvenience as many people rely on the grid for power. Hospitals, banks, schools and more can be shut down with the right attack.
While some of the more important facilities have redundant systems for electricity, it still makes me worry that a hacker can bring society to its knees by gaining control of a power grid. Fortunately, these kinds of hacks are extremely rare. However, it makes you think about the many different utilities that can bring life to a stand still such as the lack of water or gas lines.
Worry #10: Health Devices Giving Hackers a Way to Hurt You
Information technology fuels a wide spectrum of society today. This includes devices used for health. Although the technology was initially created to monitor a patient, it can have a deadly outcome.
According to researchers, some pacemakers can be hacked and used to stop a person’s heart. This was tested on a mannequin in which the device was successfully attacked by brute force and denial of service attacks.
While it’s not likely that wearable health monitors such as watches will electrocute the wearer, other devices may be subjected to hacks and malware. In theory, this means a hacker can take a person hostage without touching the individual. Depending on the device, the hacker may not even need to be in the same country.
Most of these devices are protected against such issues, but it’s still a possibility for future tech to have some kind of vulnerability that people will exploit.
Although it’s mostly up to firewalls and software to keep you safe, there are a few things you can do to minimize the damage. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure. A lack of cyber security can harm you, but there are things you can do to protect yourself.
Here are a few things you can do to keep you and the family safe:
- Always keep your software for anything updated. This includes operating systems, firmware upgrades and any software you use.
- Never shop on websites that don’t have a valid and current SSL certificate.
- Never click on links in an email, even if the message is sent from someone you know.
- Never open unsolicited attachments in an email.
- Never respond to emails requesting personal information, even if the email looks legitimate.
- Always research apps for mobile devices before installing them.
- Never share anything online you don’t want anyone else to know. It’s safe to assume that anything you share is accessible by the world.
Throughout history, the criminal element has found ways to use innocent devices to harm or destroy. The digital age is no exception. While there are many ways to stop hackers with protection and firewalls, it’s only a matter of time until someone develops a new threat. Keep your data as safe as possible and always keep your software up to date.