‘Tis The Season To Become Cyber-aware And Have A Hacker-free New Year

‘Tis The Season To Become Cyber-aware And Have A Hacker-free New Year

This year was noteworthy for cyber attacks ― from ransomware, botnets, data breaches and more ― name a type of hack and it happened. Even the most trusted brands and companies were left vulnerable on many occasions in 2017. If the whirlwind of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday has left you with a hangover and blurred memories of of cybercrimes past, then let’s pause and reflect on some of the top cyberattacks from this year.

In May, WannaCry ransomware took over more than 230,000 computers in 150 countries in just a few days of its launch. A worldwide cyberattack, this nasty threat encrypted personal data, demanded payment in Bitcoins, and hit 34 percent of NHS health trusts in England, forcing cancelled operations and UK patients to travel further to accident and emergency rooms. Thankfully, nobody died as a result and the attack was quickly nipped in the bud with a kill switch that slowed WannaCry’s progress significantly.

Shortly thereafter, the world received an unwelcome visit from a ghostly relative of cybercrime past, Petya. NotPetya made its debut in June 2017 and targeted PCs globally. As it wormed its way into machines, its main purpose – despite demanding a ransom – was to leave behind destroyed file systems.

In July 2017, credit reporting agency Equifax experienced a massive data breach in which hackers stole the personal data of more than 143 million people. Digital flaws were partially to blame for this breach, but so was Equifax itself. Equifax admitted to knowing about a vulnerability two months prior to the breach.

Lastly, the Reaper botnet appropriately made its appearance in the latter half of October. Targeting routers, cameras and other unsecured Internet of Things (IoT) devices, Reaper quickly surpassed other botnets in size, including 2016’s, Mirai. It was reported that Mirai overtook anywhere from 145,000 to 230,000 devices, while researchers showed Reaper infected a network of over one million organizations. While the Reaper botnet has yet to be activated, there is still a fear that Reaper once activated could completely disarm and take down the internet.

These were just some of the attacks that made 2017 a dangerous year in cybersecurity. As we look forward to the new year, let’s resolve to do everything we can to be ready and protect ourselves from cyber crime in 2018. Here’s a few easy actions you can take now:

New Year’s Resolution #1: Toughen Up your Passwords

It’s 2018 and high time to get vigilant about creating strong passwords for your smart devices. Default passwords need to be a thing of the past. Hackers are not sitting in a dark lair, staring at a screen trying to break into your account by guessing your birthday or the name of your first pet. Instead, they’re using programs that cull through databases of common passwords in a manner of seconds. Gone are the days of using one word as a password and simply changing a few letters to numbers and symbols. The resulting passwords may be complicated to us, but are quite simple to a computer. Try using a phrase or a few words together to create a password – don’t pick a famous or common phrase, but use something unique to you. These passwords are much easier for users to remember, but more difficult for hackers to steal.

New Year’s Resolution #2: Don’t Fall for Phishing Bait

A lot of personal information ends up in malicious hands because users fall for phony deals, offers and other enticing things disguised as official content. Phishing scams are usually spread through email, so know what to look for. If an email seems suspicious, then don’t engage with it and delete it. One trick is to hover your mouse over any URL links (but don’t click on them) to reveal a text bubble by your mouse or the bottom of your browser window, indicating the true location of the link. Additionally, if the information or offer in an email looks too good to be true, it probably is. Incorrect grammar or spelling or slightly different email addresses are immediate giveaways. Remember, it’s not worth divulging your personal information and risking identity theft and fraud to see if you won some contest you’ve never heard of.

New Year’s Resolution #3: Update, Update, Update

We’ve all been in the midst of something important when our smart device prompts us for an update. It’s tempting to push it aside and ask for a reminder later. Remember, software and application updates are in place to fix bugs, slow processing and, most importantly, repair vulnerabilities. As operating systems are updated, the old ones quickly become a hacker’s target. Don’t invite hackers into your personal data and then make it even easier on them by using outdated operating systems and applications. Update, update, update!

Commit to making 2018 a cyber secure year for you and your family. If 2017 was any indication, cyberattacks will appear in even greater numbers in 2018. Taking the aforementioned steps will help you be more aware, safe and security


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