“In 2016, there have been 454 data breaches with nearly 12.7 million records exposed.”
–2016 Identity Theft Resource Center Data Breach Category Summary
If this statistic doesn’t scare you, it should.
October is dominated by Halloween: pumpkin carving, cider drinking, costume searching, candy eating, and Trick-or-Treating. Most people don’t realize that October is shared by another important event: National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM).
NCSAM began in 2003 as a collaborative effort between the public and private sectors: the US Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance. In his recent Presidential Proclamation, Obama notes, “The rise of the Internet has brought incredible opportunity and new ways of innovating and enhancing our way of life — but with great potential also comes heightened risk to our data.” Unfortunately, the opportunities that come from access to cyberspace are accompanied by threats to both individuals and the community.
The awareness campaign is designed to engage and educate public and private sector partners on cybersecurity, provide the tools necessary for online safety, and increase public resiliency in the event of a cyber incident or attack. Each week in October has a different theme:
Recently, Yahoo Inc.— a tech company and home to one of the 3 primary internet search engines— disclosed they fell victim to the biggest data breach to date. The breach affected over 500 million accounts. Even though it happened in 2014, the breach was not discovered and publicly disclosed until two years later, in buyout negotiations with Verizon. According to Yahoo, the “massive breach” was executed by “state sponsored” hackers who “stole names, email addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers and encrypted passwords.” This is only the latest in a devastating line of cyber attacks.
Cyber attacks are like genetic mutations. As coding and technology gets more sophisticated and secure, the cyber attacks get more intelligent and complex, respectively. Technology is our greatest tool, but also a great weapon—one that becomes more foreboding and unpredictable with progress. As one source so poignantly puts it, “Who needs a gun when you have a keyboard?”
The Internet of Things aspires to connect everyone and everything, everywhere. But, being so intimately connected in our everyday lives means we are all susceptible to cyber warfare, which doesn’t only target countries and organizations, but also individuals—invading their homes, finances, and files.
Measured by data stolen, some of the biggest breaches in history have targeted large companies, especially those associated with social media, e-commerce, and credit card processing like LinkedIn, MySpace, eBay, and Hartland (respectively). High risk industries include government, healthcare, technology, and higher education. The attacks span payment card fraud, unintended disclosure, hacking, malware, insider leaks, and ransomware. Understanding the types of cyber attacks that can happen, can help you prepare and protect yourself.
These are only a few of the most prevalent (and dangerous) cybersecurity attacks that can happen to you. The first steps to protection are awareness, education, engagement, and utilization of the tools around you. Although National Cybersecurity Awareness Month will end, your efforts should continue throughout the year!