13/12/2012 05:39 GMT | Updated 11/02/2013 05:12 GMT

Safeguarding Your Digital Life: How to Stay Safe in 2013


As 2012 draws to an end, it's fair to say it's been a very busy year for cybercriminals! So what have we learnt from the past year and what do we need to be wary of in 2013 to ensure that both our data and our wallet remain protected?

Despite common beliefs, one thing we have learnt in 2012 is that Apple definitely isn't immune from malware. Over the past year we have seen a significant rise in the number of attacks targeting MacOS X computers - the most notable being the "Flashfake/Flashback" Trojan.

Appearing late in 2011, the Trojan became really popular in 2012 with estimations that it infected nearly 700,000 Macs, making it the biggest MacOS X infection to-date. Exploiting a vulnerability in Java, the malware occurs when victims visit infected websites, allowing the Trojan to be downloaded directly onto their computers. Infected users can then have their computers watched and controlled remotely by hackers, leaving them vulnerable to data theft and fraud.

It's no surprise that Macs have become key targets for attack. Apple products are popular with many influential politicians and prominent businessmen; therefore the information stored on these devices is particularly sensitive and valuable to cybercriminals. So Mac users be warned - this threat is only going to continue to grow!

And it's not just Apple users who should be worried. Over the past year the number of malicious threats targeting the Android platform has continued to rise, demonstrating that is a key area of interest fro cyber criminals. In fact, 99% of all mobile malware discovered in 2012 targeted Android devices - no doubt a worrying statistic for the avid Android user.

The problem is that Android OS 'ticks all the boxes' for cybercriminals: it's widely used, it's easy to develop for, and the wide variety of (unofficial) application markets mean that those using the system are able to download programs (including malicious programs) from wherever they choose. It's for this reason that there is unlikely to be any slow-down in the development of malicious apps for Android - so if you're planning on getting a new phone next year, you might want to take this into consideration.

2012 also saw a number of high profile privacy breaches. On June 5th, LinkedIn was hacked and the passwords of more than 6.4 million people leaked publically across the Internet, while popular websites DropBox and also became targets. Of course this is not a new problem, with the hacking and leaking of information first gaining media attention when the Sony Playstation Network was hacked back in 2011, but it's clear that such huge leaks are not simply a 'thing of the past'. In fact the problem can be much worse than it seems if you've used the same password for each online account.

However it's not just the illegal hacking of personal information that is becoming an issue, but the wider erosion, or loss, of privacy on the Internet. Many people routinely bank, shop and socialise online and every time they sign up for an online account, they are required to disclose information about ourselves. What many people fail to realise is that companies aggregate and use this information for advertising and promotional purposes, sometimes without us even knowing about it, and it's not always clear how to opt out of this process.

The value of personal data - to cybercriminals and legitimate businesses - will only grow in the future, and with it the potential threat to our privacy increases. So you might want to think twice about exactly what information you are giving away online.

As both online and mobile threats continue to become more sophisticated we all need to make sure we are taking the necessary precautions to stay protected. The year of 2013 looks set to become another busy year for cybercriminals, so be sure to take care when giving away personal information both online and on mobile devices. Make sure you don't venture onto the Internet without a basic level of protection, use secure passwords and be careful when visiting third party sites. Just by taking that extra little bit of care - you can look forward to a worry free 2013.