The rise in cyber attacks: are you a target?

what is cybersecurity? is there a rise in Cyber crimes? What security measures can you take?
Cyber crimes are on the rise- why is that?

Did you know there was a record-breaking 50% increase in corporate cyber attacks in 2021? Well, I didn’t know that! Cyber attacks in general have been on the rise in the last couple of years. With various growing threats, big organisations constantly pursue better cybersecurity measures to protect themselves. But what about you as an individual? Should you be worried? How can you ensure better cyber hygiene for yourself? let’s get into what cyberattacks are, the reasons for their surge and how we, not just corporations and organisations, can stay safe in these troubling times.

What are cyber attacks? who are cyber criminals? And why should you worry about them?

 Expert Adrianus Warmenhowen, Defensive Strategist at Nord Security holds that 2021 seemed like a watershed moment in the rise in cyber attacks. To him, cyber crimes have become more professional with a return on investment in criminal activities.
Cyber crimes have become more professional

I’m glad you asked. Cyber attacks are illegal activities perpetuated by Cyber criminals directed at computers, mobile phones, computer networks or other online devices for financial, political or personal gain. While these criminals may be technically skilled or novices, their attacks always cause emotional harm and financial hardship to their targets. These attacks can take many forms, including but not limited to-

  • Malware infections- where malicious software such as viruses or ransomware breaching networks through vulnerabilities
  • Denial of service (DoS)- attacks which flood a system, network or server exhausting them of their bandwidth so they are unable to fulfil legitimate requests
  • Phishing scams-sending fraudulent communication via email which appears to be from a reputable source, with the goal of stealing sensitive data

These are a few common forms of cyber attacks. If you want to dive deep into the other forms you can read here.

Reasons for the rise in cyber attacks

1. The Pandemic with its baggage

The number one reason for the rise in cyber attacks is the Pandemic with the baggage it came with! According to The Business wire, 81% of global organisations experienced increased cyber threats during Covid-19. On a global stage, we are still massively experiencing this aftermath as attacks and threats continue to surge.

Expert Adrianus Warmenhowen, Defensive Strategist at Nord Security holds that “2021 seemed like a watershed moment in the rise in cyber attacks”. To him, “cyber crimes have become more professional with a return on investment in criminal activities“. Because we now live in an unprecedented era of more people working from home, the isolation from remote working has intensified vulnerabilities with no mental backup from colleagues.

2. Our current digital climate

Another reason for this rise in cyber attacks is our current digital climate. Our continuous reliance on digital commerce and payments is on an upward curve. We also correspond more via email and text for work and in our personal life. We are experiencing an exceedingly growing use of technology and the internet. Both in daily life and business operations. This has made us all targets of cybercriminals. As more people and organizations rely on digital systems, so do cybercriminals advance their techniques and tools to bypass security measures.

3. The Growth of the Internet of things

Lastly, the growth of the Internet of things (IoT, a blanket term for various gadgets with processing power and an internet connection. Examples include home routers, security cameras, cleaning robots etc) has provided cybercriminals with more entry points and playing fields. IoTs are particularly vulnerable to security breaches for reasons we will discuss in a different post. The infamous Mirai attack for instance resulted in widespread internet outages and disruptions to a number of major websites, including Twitter, Netflix, and Reddit. Mirai took advantage of insecure IoT devices and compromised thousands of these devices resulting in no internet access on the US east coast.

So, if you read “Corporate and organisational cyber attacks” and thought to yourself. “Well, I’m neither a corporation nor an organization”, think again. Some level of security measures should back our increased reliance on computer systems and IoTs. No one is immune to various forms of cyber attacks.

These forms include but are not limited to:

  • Credit card fraud
  • Theft and sale of corporate data
  • Cyberstalking
  • Cryptojacking (where hackers mine cryptocurrency using resources they do not own).
  • Defaming another online
  • Cyberextortion (demanding money to prevent a threatened attack
  • Gaining unauthorized access to computer systems/compromising the network
  • Infringing copyright, software licensing and trademark safe to protect
  • Soliciting, producing, or possessing child pornography
  • Software piracy 
  • Ransomware attacks (a type of cyber extortion)
  • Stealing another’s identity to perform criminal acts

How can you be proactive and actionable against cyber attacks? 

Virtual private network keeps your personal data safe on public Wi-Fi  
  1. Use stronger passwords or a password manager. Avoid using your kids’ names and birthdays as even amateur hackers could easily breach those. Most websites will suggest a minimum number of characters in lower/uppercase and symbols, adhere to those.
  2. Educate yourself on trending threats and best practices when navigating online.
  3. Safeguard your devices by updating software and operating systems regularly. You have access to the latest security patches after updates.
  4. Do not give out personal information or carry out financial transactions until you are sure of the authenticity of your recipient. Limit personal information shared online.
  5. Make use of anti-viruses and keep them updated. Anti-viruses help protect your computer. By scanning, it can detect and remove any threats before they metastasise. 
  6. Beware of links and attachments from unknown sources.

In the last two years, I cannot count the number of times unknown sources have reached out to me with sketchy job offers, links to follow, and PDFs to open. I often ask myself “of all the rich people these criminals could attempt to attack they really picked me?” I’m learning that everyone is a potential victim. You may be a pon in the larger scheme of things. So yes, you are a target. And no you shouldn’t worry, rather apply the aforementioned measures to protect yourself. Has anyone else experienced any form of a cyber threat? Please do share in the comments. And share your cyber hygiene tips as well. Stay safe guys!