4 cyber threats you need to be aware of in 2017

Anne Mari Ronquillo
4 cyber threats you need to be aware of in 2017
Contribute to a safer digital ecosystem by staying informed of how malicious online entities act

Leaks, hacks, phishing schemes, and all manner of cyber threats regularly make the headlines now. As more and more put their data online and make use of e-transactions, the attacks are likely to grow – simply because the more people there are online, the more potential targets a cyber-criminal has. 

Is your money safe? How sure are you that no one’s spying on your whereabouts or using your personal details for illicit gains? That’s the anxiety that these cyber threats are causing.

It doesn’t help that in the Philippines, there exists a lack of Filipino IT security professionals that can promote cybersecurity awareness in the country. While other countries are fighting to prevent the most sophisticated attacks on their systems, the Philippines is still learning to combat the basic ones. (Read: State of Cybersecurity in the Philippines)

One, however, doesn’t need to be an IT expert to protect themselves from these attacks. By staying informed of how cybercriminals carry out their schemes, individuals can keep this digital ecosystem safer for themselves and for the people around them. Below we discuss what these are. 

E-mail remains most vulnerable 

So much of our internet activity rely on our e-mail accounts. That’s why people in positions of power and influence are becoming a common target for e-mail hackers. Hackers know that a lot of information goes through email.  

Here’s a high-profile example: Last year’s U.S. presidential campaigns. The campaigns were shaken by the DNC hackswhich is believed to have been launched by Russia. Former Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta, fell victim to phishing and had tens of thousands of his e-mails exposed, which now sit in Wikileaks and are said to have damaged the Democratic Party, ultimately leading to Hillary Clinton’s loss.

And you don’t have to be a political figure to be a target. Your email contains a lot of important data such as log-in details to other sites and personal information that could be of financial value to a hacker. The swift solution: Employ the security features that your email service provides such as multi-step authentication. 

For businesses, current web e-mail providers such as Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, and Yahoo! do not currently provide end-to-end ecryption (E2EE). Enterprises and multinational corporations will be smart to invest in e-mail services that offer E2EE, even if it costs more.

Prepare yourself for the Internet of Things

We are using smart gadgets now more than ever. The Internet of Things (IOT) is the start of our road to ubiquitous technology – an upward trend with no signs of backing down. Integrated devices allow further conveniences such as physically unlocking your door from your mobile device, or viewing a nanny cam in your home from a remote location.

The downside? They can get hacked. Why should you care if, for example, your smart electric fan gets hacked? These smart devices are usually connected to a network such as your home wi-fi. So if any of the smart appliances you have is not that secure, the hacker can target that, and from there, gain access to all your other devices. Manufacturers then have the responsibility of making sure that their smart devices are solid from a cybersecurity standpoint. 

While it may take a while before the IoT appliances truly take root in majority of the world’s homes, some software companies like Symantec, Intel, and Dojo Labs are preparing a suite of up-and-coming nifty-looking security devices ready to sit next to your Amazon Echo and Google Home or whatever dream IoT device you want.

When homes start becoming smart homes, people may want to look into investing in IoT cybersecurity gear – the same way they once protected their computer with antivirus software. What better way to protect the Internet of Things than with another ‘thing?’

Financial insecurities

Last year’s Bangladesh Central Bank heist diverted $81 million to the Philippines, as well as attention to the country’s money laundering and cybercrime laws. 

Security software and hardware company, Sophos, predicts that similar crimes that take advantage of the vulnerability of financial software will continue to happen while becoming even more sophisticated. 

Financial transactions through mobile apps are becoming the norm these days, and while we think we are safe from the standard, at-gunpoint hold-up, there are criminals who will stop at nothing to steal money. This electronic shift just brought more incidents under the huge umbrella of cybercrime. 

Financial institutions, big and small, would benefit greatly from contracting third-party security solutions providers who will monitor network equipment to processing logs in real-time. Audits and backtracking are just not preventive enough for the speed at which financial crimes are committed.

As for the individual, the smartphone, computer or any device used to access money online should be secured the same way they’d secure their ATM card: keep access details away from eyes other than one’s own. 

Fake news as a cybersecurity threat

More Filipinos are able to access the internet now despite the longstanding problem of slow connection speed. It is believed that the outcome of last year’s presidential elections is proof of successful social media campaigning

But with good comes bad. The quick spread of information is great…if its contents are indeed facts. It must be remembered that humans are actually considered the weakest link in a security chain. So a person armed with a rumor can just as damaging as a person with a bomb. 

Unfortunately, the market for fake news is highly lucrative, and writers harbor no shame publishing fictional content if it meant they earned big money. On the other hand, “leaks” or actual written proof, whether electronic or not, have the ability to influence the public on the basis of being seen as evidence.

We think that just because it doesn’t involve passwords, the fake news industry is not a security concern. But it is. Information is also valuable currency. We now make our decisions based on information we see online – and these decisions can have nationwide or even global consequences. – Rappler.com

Anne was an IT professional for 7 years before wading into the unpredictable pool of freelance writing (and parenthood). Her interests are reflected by her favorite apps: Evernote, Simplenote, and the native iOS camera.

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