Due to cyberattacks, companies, organisations, and individuals can suffer financial, operational, and reputational damage. Discover what the problems are and how you can protect your data.
By Sascha Fahrbach, Cybersecurity and Technology Expert.
The headlines seem to be bursting with them daily: cyber-attacks and cyber threats.
This past year has seen a surge of high-profile attacks and incidents worldwide, from vital national infrastructure to retail and healthcare. No industry is safe from the onslaught of hackers and criminals. There are continued reports of data loss and financial theft, which number into millions of dollars. It’s a genuinely frightening picture.
However, before panic becomes the norm and you hide under your bed, it would be prudent to take a step back and understand what exactly cybersecurity is. Many simply associate the term with hackers and nefarious forces bent on the wanton destruction of our society. True, there are organisations and criminals in the world who very much want to steal your data and make a profit from the crime.
We should refrain from too much fearmongering and take time to truly understand the complex and fascinating world of cybersecurity and its intersection with our daily lives. Knowledge is power, and that maxim holds true with cybersecurity.
What is cybersecurity anyway?
To truly understand how to be safer in our digital world, we must define the term. Simply put, cybersecurity deals with the efforts, tools, and methods which are used to protect data and networks from criminal attacks, as well as unauthorised access or even physical damage.
Furthermore, cybersecurity deals with the processes and tools utilised to secure physical objects and digital assets like personal health data or valuable intellectual property.
As our world becomes more interconnected, we all create more data; through work or social media, for example. Each picture we post or email we send. All of us interact on a greater scale with others. So, therefore, it is only wise to be aware of how best to do all this safely and securely.
That’s why cybersecurity should be viewed not so much as a distant high-tech topic only pertinent to IT experts. In fact, cybersecurity awareness should guide our daily interactions with technology. So, no matter if you are posting on social media, or working remotely from home, or perhaps shopping online for the newest pair of shoes, taking a moment to ensure you’re doing this activity in the most secure way will go a long way towards your cyber resilience.
What are some of the risks?
Our society continues to experience a crucial period of digital transformation. In large part, thanks to new technologies, our world is increasingly more interconnected and digitised every day. With this shift, we can, of course, observe some fantastic benefits: high-speed communication, remote access from anywhere in the world, new collaborative tools which improve our working lives, our health, and the way we engage with our friends and loved ones.
These new incredible connections can, unfortunately, be abused and exploited by cybercriminals. That’s not to say everything we do is unsafe, but it is due to the kinds of digital tools we use and how we use them that we must be careful.
It is worth noting that cybercrime is expected to cost global businesses more than $10.5 trillion in potential revenue by 2025. That means we must take extra care of how we access and deal with our data. As our interaction with apps, devices, and digital platforms becomes more widespread, we must realise that we are all collectively responsible for our cyber well-being. It would be the wrong approach to expect an IT team or others to be fully accountable for how one engages with their digital identity. Naturally, companies and government regulation also play a significant part, yet it should also be down to the individual to ensure that the most effort is made to mitigate threats.
Cybersecurity threats are becoming increasingly common in our digital world and affect every sector. Some of the main types of cyberattacks include malware, phishing scams, DDoS attacks, and ransomware which have caused billions of dollars in damages in the last few years.
Furthermore, with the rise of IoT devices being connected across our world - there are currently more than 20 billion of them - the majority lacking proper security features or encryption standards, making these devices a tempting target for criminals.
How do we stay secure?
Improved security and cybersecurity awareness is not something that can be achieved overnight. It requires a concerted effort by many different parties. At the same time, it is not something that should be dismissed or taken lightly.
Everyone should be more conscious about their digital identity due to the increasing instances of hacking and vulnerabilities in our digital world.
There are many things you can do to stay secure in this digital age. For instance: using complex passwords, avoiding making purchases with free WIFI hotspots, keeping your software updated, and turning on two-factor authentication for essential accounts; turning off Bluetooth when not in use is also a good habit to have.
Of course, there is not just one thing that will guarantee you complete security. We must all be vigilant, reasonable, and practice safe cyber hygiene to reduce the chances of incidents or attacks. It may seem basic, but using complex and unique passwords for different accounts is a great thing everyone can do to be more secure.
Cybersecurity is a fascinating and complex topic which everyone needs to be more familiar with, and it should not be a term associated only with terrible headlines. Our world is more digital than ever before, and this requires that we all collectively do our utmost to reduce cyber risks. We are all part of this digital transformation, and by being more cyber aware, we can all enjoy the incredible innovations that technology affords us, which ultimately enrich our lives.