Cybersecurity has always been something of a cat-and-mouse game. Just as experts fighting the good fight catch up to the hackers, the bad guys adapt and find new types of exploits and new schemes to employ.
At this point, leading a digital life means accepting some level of risk. Nevertheless, the convenience and benefits certainly make it worth the potential downside. The key, really, is working to protect yourself as much as possible.
You don’t need to totally disconnect and hide from the networked world. You just need to watch out for the top threats and use good, proven strategies to safeguard your accounts, data, identity and finances.
Risk: The biggest new threat in recent years has come in the form of ransomware. In this type of attack, a malicious actor infects your computer or network with malware that can encrypt your data or deny user access until a ransom is paid. While the highest-profile ransomware attacks (like WannaCry in 2017) have been against corporations and governments, individuals have also often been targets of smaller-scale events.
Strategies: An overall cybersecurity defense strategy is the best practice when it comes to staying safe from ransomware. But keeping all your software and applications up to date with patches is probably the top priority. Most attacks of this sort find existing exploits as a way in — and then take over your whole network from there.
2. Identity Cloning
Risk: More and more, cyber threats have been moving from stealing credit card information to full-blown identity theft. Also known as identity cloning, this criminal methodology can be a lot more disastrous and financially ruinous, sometimes taking years to fix if an enterprising thief runs up credit lines in your name or empties your bank account.
Strategies: Third-party protection service can help out greatly, both in detecting identity cloning attempts and helping you recover if someone manages to steal your identity. The industry leader remains LifeLock for its long history of success and widespread usage across the country.
Risk: There is nothing new about phishing. It has been around almost as long as e-mail, and hackers continue to send malicious links disguised (often poorly) as legitimate websites. Even though it is one of the most common — and usually obvious — methods, it still works to a surprising degree. The FBI reported that it remained the No. 1 reported type of attack in 2019 with some 114,702 victims of phishing and related schemes.
Strategies: No matter how many workplaces plead with employees not to click on suspicious e-mails, people continue to do it and expose their private information. But you can stay ahead of the game by practicing good e-mail hygiene, requiring multi-factor authentication for company accounts and making sure you have good spam filters established.
Staying One Step Ahead of Cyber Threats
Part of living responsibly these days is understanding digital risks. You don't have to become a cybersecurity expert, but you do need to know the basics of conducting your life and work online.
Watch out for ransomware, identify cloning and phishing — and keep your software patched, look for third-party security help and practice good digital hygiene. Just that alone should keep you ahead of the game.
There will always be some level of threat out there, but you can stay a lot safer if you make protection a daily routine. For secure payment processing, you may check High Risk Pay.