Do not overlook Cybersecurity
Someone once said a secure computer is a dead computer that is unplugged from the wall. While hardware, software, and telecom companies strive to excel in producing ‘unbreakable' computers, codes, and connected appliances, criminals on the other side of the equation in the unfathomable corners of the cyber world very persistently challenge them for personal gains.
Every day we read about security breaches and thefts of data by cybercriminals causing irreparable damages to personal privacy and company reputation. Thus, securing cyberspace including all the connected devices is essential from a personal and organizational perspective. Cybercrimes cost us all a lot of grief in many ways.
Cybercriminals profit from hacking into computer systems by bypassing the security systems and stealing personal information, banking details, credit card accounts, and passwords. They use the stolen information for nefarious purposes and profits by selling the information and even assuming our identities.
A few examples from the past clearly show that the cyber thugs are winning. The cost associated with these cybercrimes is on the rise costing companies and consumers. Accenture estimated that on average, companies spent about $11.7 million to offset the cybercrime costs and it is projected to reach $6 trillion annually by 2021.
Cybercriminals use a plethora of social engineering tools (such as trojans, adware, ransomware, viruses, worms, denial of service, password cracking, adware, spyware, phishing, and malware) to hack into and pilfer our information that is stored and transmitted across various legitimate organizations.
Despite concerted and constructive efforts to protect the information from cybercriminals, cyber-attacks and data breaches are on the rise year after year across the globe. The ‘Wannacry' virus spread throughout the Internet and caused substantial (about $ 4 billion) loss to individuals and organizations. Both, 2017 Equifax, and 2018 Under Armour, Inc. (‘MyFitnessPal', their food and nutrition app and website) breach affected almost 150 million users.
According to statistics, there were 8854 reported breaches during 2005 and 2018 period. Ponemon Institute's 2017 Study shows that on average 24089 records were breached per country. However, India holds the record; India recorded over 33000 files during the same time.
We know that the risks associated with cybercrimes are enormous. The whole infrastructure hosting the cyber world, from the endpoint personal computers to every piece of connected equipment to vast arrays of storage, the mobile devices, and the telecom equipment, are these days under threat from malevolent cybercriminals. They aim to destroy, disrupt services, and profit by pilferage. Threats are growing daily despite all the countermeasures. It is a kind of cat and mouse game, where the criminals are a step ahead of the game.
October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, it the annual campaign to educate, raise awareness, and teach the public to take proactive steps to ward off or minimize the cyber threats. Cybersecurity is essential to all of us, as our privacy is at stake. Cybersecurity should not be taken for granted. A few simple steps can reduce data and information loss. The reality is that everyone can adopt simple behaviors that can defend against the most common cyber threats.
Cybersecurity is a serious regimen, a set of unrelenting practices that involves data integrity, data security, data confidentiality, and data availability to legitimate and authorized users. Cybersecurity is accomplished via securing all the components, computers, networks, data storage devices, connective appliances, endpoint devices, people, power, and associated resources from the criminal elements.
Practicing basic cybersecurity hygiene constantly pays off handsomely. From the usage of strong passwords to protect all your accounts (email, social media, bank and credit card accounts) and changing them at frequent intervals are a deterrent. Keeping computers, and Internet-connected appliances and applications updated with the latest security patches, malware detectors, and antivirus apps is another step in the right direction.
Always be aware of malware-laden emails, links, and websites. No matter how enticing, never visit unknown links embedded in the emails or visit bad, and unsecured websites or share personal information. Make sure all your social media accounts are secured with adequate privacy settings. Always practice proper backup, and storage of your data including personal information with appropriate security features turned on.
As our lives are getting extremely entangled in the tangled web of online and electronic transactions as ever before, more of our personal information is stored and shared by institutions. Losing the data to cybercriminals comes at a greater price. Every one of us has a role to play in the game of cybersecurity. We do our part to minimize the risks thus eliminating identity theft and financial losses. A good security practice is a mindset; it ought to be practiced consistently and regularly.
(Author is a technology professional from Toronto, Canada)