The threat of cyberattacks is growing constantly. That growth rate isn’t likely to subside any time soon. It’s been estimated that cybertheft and other cybercrimes cost $450 billion across the world in 2016, and by 2021, could that figure could rise to more than $6 trillion a year.
Why are cyberattacks growing, both in total number and cost of the damage?
The Motivating Factors
These are some of the most essential motivating factors:
- Increasing attack sophistication. In some ways, cyberattacks are getting more sophisticated, either because they’re harder to detect, or because they take advantage of subtler security vulnerabilities. In fact, only 12 percent of organizations are likely to detect a sophisticated cyberattack, which makes these invasions capable of more lasting harm than a conventional attack.
- Improved digital access. The Internet is becoming more accessible and more widely used every year. It’s reaching a larger global audience, and occupying the time of individuals for more hours out of every day. This has two effects. First, the sheer number of potential targets skyrockets because cybercriminals can target more people spending more time in vulnerable positions. Second, the number of people with access to tools that can facilitate cybercrime is increasing as well.
- Stagnated public knowledge. The general level of knowledge about cybersecurity and threats hasn’t increased much in the past several years, despite advancing technology. This mismatched growth pattern makes more consumers vulnerable even to conventional attacks.
- Foreign protection. Several countries, including Russia and North Korea, intentionally harbor or turn a blind eye to cybercriminals within their borders. Criminals have an easier time finding shelter and carrying out attacks from a distance, which is also increasing the total number and destructive output of attacks around the globe.
Navigating a Vulnerable World
How can you hope to stay secure in an increasingly vulnerable web community?
- Understand your personal risk factors. First, understand what can make you vulnerable to a cyberattack. For example, do you often rely on public WiFi networks? Do you maintain access to lots of personal records through your business? The more at-risk you are, the more you should invest in security measures and safer practices to protect yourself.
- Invest in a paper shredder. With a paper shredder nearby, you can readily shred all your sensitive documents before you dispose of them. Despite the increasing power and sophistication of cyberattacks online, conventional methods (such as stealing personal login information from discarded paper documents) remain the most common.
- Choose strong passwords and change them often. This one should be a no-brainer by now, but you’d be amazed how many people still choose weak, easily guessable passwords and/or never change them. You should devise unique passwords with long strings of letters, numbers, and symbols, and change them for each account at least once or twice a year.
- Learn the latest schemes, and stay alert. Pay attention to the latest stratagems used to infect computers with malware or steal personal information (including login information). While you’re at it, treat every unfamiliar email or phone call with an extra degree of caution. The more aware you are, the quicker you’ll spot the red flags, and the less likely you’ll be to fall for the ruses.
- Keep your operating systems and apps updated. Make sure your apps and operating systems are always up to date. Most companies are vigilant about watching for new threats, from both external attacks and internal vulnerabilities. When they find one, they issue a fix to the system as soon as they can devise it. If you fall behind on your app and OS updates, you could become vulnerable to a security weakness that was documented and fixed months ago.
There’s no way to guarantee absolute protection in a world that’s seeing an increasing number of threats, but you can dodge the majority of cybercrimes by following these basic steps.
More than 90 percent of cyberattacks are attributable to human error or laziness, because most cybercriminals are opportunists, rather than experts. There isn’t much you can do about the constantly growing digital threat, but you can keep yourself informed and remain a step ahead of the curve.