STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
3 Top Cyber Security Threats and How To Protect Yourself Against Them
By Sam Bocetta - March 05, 2019

The mass expansion of technology and global communication has made the world a smaller place. Never before has it been easier to speak with someone across the world in an instant.

This information has its perks, but greater connectivity can open your data to everyone. The good news, there are ways to mitigate the risks and protect your data.

The bad news is that black-hat techniques are always changing, so defensive measures must evolve as well. Cybersecurity threats are real and it’s up to us to know how to protect ourselves from them.

Let’s cover the immediate cybersecurity threats everyday Americans face and how to protect ourselves from them:

1 – Sextortion Email Schemes

Embedded cameras in our smart devices are great for facetiming and taking pictures for Instagram and SnapChat. But like most things, there is a dark side to this greater accessibility.

At the end of 2018, cybersecurity experts started noticing a trend in phishing attempts where people received anonymous emails threatening to release captured webcam and smartphone pictures for ransom.

In one of the most chilling types of sextortion emails, a captor will send you your login credentials and passwords to prove they have control of your system and access to compromising material. They threaten to release it unless you make a payment to an untraceable cryptocurrency address.

The kicker with these types of scams is the fact that the extortionist really has no access to your system at all. Attackers get access to passwords (sometimes old or outdated) released in data dumps that can be found online if you know where to look.

Since most of us stick to passwords that we are familiar with, and unfortunately don’t change those passwords enough, it’s easy to understand how these types of attacks happen. The hackers aren’t looking to get super rich in one fell swoop, but if they can manage to get two or three people to pay the ransom, it’s a successful score.

2 – Exploitation of IoT (Internet of Things) Devices

IoT devices are smart devices that sync to a home’s Wi-Fi network and give homeowners an extra measure of control over things like lighting, heating, and cooling, and even control over cameras and motion sensors as an added layer of physical security for your property.

The issue with these connected devices is they can be easy to exploit if you have access to a home network router or you’re aware of the frequency that these devices run on. Once you have access to a facet of a system, you’re generally able to connect to all aspects of that system, including smart devices.

This goes far beyond a hacker exploiting your router and stealing information on your identity or what kind of things you like to buy online. This gives hackers a physical element of controlling your life impossible without such “smart” technologies in your home.

Think about it this way: would you want a government official, a criminal, an advertiser, or even someone you know listening into every conversation that takes places in your house?

If you’re like most people the answer is a resounding no. But unfortunately, if you bring your phone with you everywhere or have any other IoT device in your home, then you’re opening up your entire life to the government, criminals, advertisers, and anyone else targeting you.

There is a story of a couple in Texas who used a smart camera to monitor their baby through their cell phones.

Little did they know, but hackers gained access to their home Wi-Fi network and were then able to access the home security camera as well as the microphone so they could speak through to the homeowners, saying they were going to kidnap the baby.

You would think that this alone would be enough to dissuade many people from incorporating smart technology in their home, but it isn’t.

With the proper layers of digital security incorporated into your physical security measures, it should be enough to ward off any intrusions or exploits on your home Wi-Fi network and accompanying connected devices.

Examples of what you can do include installing reputable internet security software on your computers and devices, using a VPN to secure the data between your home or public Wi-Fi, and using strong and unique passwords for devices and Wi-Fi networks.

3 – Increases in DDoS Style Attacks

A DDoS attack, or distributed denial-of-service attack, is a form of attack when a hacker makes a device or system impossible to access to the user by injecting themself between the host and your internet service provider.

DDoS attacks work by the hacker targeting a specific device with misleading and often disruptive requests to drone out the actual requests from the host devices with a digital white noise from multiple sources if you will.

If you have a strong enough internet connection, consider using privacy tools, such as VPNs and firewalls, to encrypt your data even further and making it much more time consuming to access the information hackers could use if they were to intercept it in some way.

Basics…

Maintaining good practices such as changing your passwords on a regular basis, using credit cards instead of debit cards when buying things online, and keeping track of the comings and goings of your data is a great cyber security foundation to build on.

Cyber security is abstract and evolving. But it affects everyone who connects to the web.

You have to stay safe whenever you’re willing to take advantage of the benefits of online commerce, social media, running an online business and so on.

Hackers are not the kind of people to take lightly. They are very knowledgeable and their capabilities grow at the same constant rate as the technology we use every day.

If you’re willing to type your credit card information on Amazon or use your PayPal to buy a latte at Starbucks, do yourself a favor and take the time to learn about these things.

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