Every year, U.S. citizens are faced with new challenges in the realm of cyber security. Protecting one’s personal information from the grasp of hackers can be difficult considering how quickly cybercriminals adapt to various cyber safeguards. Kaspersky Lab, an international cyber security group headquartered in Russia, reported that approximately 34.2 percent of all computer users experienced at least one Web attack during 2015. Fortunately, statistics like these can give us hints to the top three cyber security threats to guard against in 2016.
Anyone previously unfamiliar with data breaches has probably learned about them in the past three years. When the massive Target data breach exposed the personal information of up to 110 million customers at the end of 2013, headlines trumpeted about what exactly data breaches were and how hackers had been secretly targeting major retailers’ point-of-sale (POS) terminals to access customer card information.
In order to keep consumers from being so vulnerable to POS data breaches, banks have switched from magnetic striped cards to EMV cards, also known as “chip cards.” Unlike the old cards that hold all of the data needed to commit fraud, the computer chip within the EMV cards work as a microprocessor that creates a new transaction code upon each use. EMV technology was responsible for cutting down on similar cyberattacks in Europe, prompting the U.S. to make the switch last year.
Since then, cybercriminals have moved their sights from retailers and hotel chains to medical data breaches. The Anthem insurance data breach last year opened the eyes of cyber security experts nationwide as more than 100 million patient records were exposed. Once hackers get their hands on people’s private medical information, they are able to sell it on the black market at premium prices due to its short supply. Now hospitals, insurance providers and other medical service specialists are scrambling to ramp up their digital security to face a new year filled with uncertainty.
Ransomware might not be new, but that’s not preventing hackers from actively tricking computer users into downloading the malicious software. The goal of ransomware is to make its way onto a user’s computer, usually through “phishing” emails with questionable links or downloads, and then encrypt files so the user is unable to open them. If the ransomware successfully encrypts the computer’s files, the only way to regain access is to pay a ransom to the hacker.
Smartphones and tablets aren’t immune to ransomware, as they, too, can be held ransom if the user opens a malicious text, email or app. The only way to keep ransomware off of your computer and personal electronic device is to be vigilant about what’s malicious and what’s not. Use caution when downloading any file or app, and make sure the source is legitimate and trustworthy. Users can also prepare for an attack by backing up their device’s files regularly. That way if worst comes to worst, they can wipe their drive completely and then restore their files.
Web browsers are a must for any computer user, so it comes as no surprise to learn that cybercriminals are now attempting to slip a virus into a browser’s files by means of a plug-in installation. Adobe Flash became notorious throughout 2015 for exposing web surfers to a number of malicious ads, causing the company to release a seemingly endless string of emergency patches. Thankfully, most computer users don’t need Flash as much as they used to thanks to new technology like HTML5. Social media giant Facebook even made the switch from Flash to HTML5 in order to better protect its clients from malicious software downloads.
By thinking before you click and doing some research on how hackers are currently obtaining data, protecting you and your personal information online becomes a simple exercise in good judgement. If you would like to read more about different cyber security threats, there is a good article on the CNBC website at http://www.cnbc.com/2015/12/28/biggest-cybersecurity-threats-in-2016.html.
Sources: Kim Komando, CNBC
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