It’s a new year, and that means there’s a different crop of security threats with which to contend. Some of these threats are from years gone by, while others are fairly new. Every threat requires its own strategy to keep you safe. Three of the top cybersecurity concerns are DDoS attacks, ransomware, and attacks on IoT devices. Read on to learn how you can protect yourself and your devices in the year to come.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks refer to a situation in which many compromised machines flood a target with requests for information. The target can’t handle the onslaught of requests, so it crashes.
Although DDoS attacks aren’t a new threat, hackers have put a modern spin on them. Cybercriminals relied upon computers to launch these digital assaults in the early days of the internet. Now, they’re turning to internet-connected devices such as light bulbs and thermostats.
There were some major DDoS attacks in 2016. The biggest DDoS attack was called Mirai, and it used tens of millions of Internet-connected devices to bring down the Internet traffic company Dyn, which provides services to Amazon, Spotify, and Twitter.
Security experts predict we haven’t seen the last of DDoS attacks by a long shot. In fact, they’ll most likely get even worse in 2017. There isn’t a way to prevent them, but if you’ve got “smart” devices in your home, you can prevent them from becoming part of DDoS attacks by strengthening their security settings so hackers can’t rope them in. Buying devices with strong security settings is another important precautionary measure.
Ransomware attacks use malware to hold your data hostage. Like DDoS attacks, these aren’t new. The first known ransomware attack took place in 1989, but the contemporary wave of this threat can be traced to 2005.
Hackers love ransomware because it’s effective. People pay up in order to gain access to their data. In the coming year, industry analysts believe hackers will use even more sophisticated techniques to attack organizations and individuals, and the digital assaults will be even more extensive.
One terrifying example that could be a harbinger of things to come is the attack on San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) that took place at the end of November 2016. Hackers infiltrated over 2,000 MTA computers, encrypted their data, and demanded a ransom of 100 bitcoin. Until this point, there had never been a ransomware attack of this scale — hackers were a bit more modest with their targets.
Consumers and businesses can take steps to protect themselves from ransomware. One thing they can do is to use maximum security software to safeguard their computers and mobile devices. This software can block ransomware from infecting your computer as well as back up critical data so it isn’t lost.
IoT Devices at Risk
As mentioned earlier, there are millions of devices that aren’t computers out there that have internet access. They’re in our homes and at our workplaces. And many of them aren’t secure, making them perfect marks for hackers.
This type of threat deserves its own section because there are a variety of ways in which cybercriminals can utilize IoT devices for their devious ends. As stated above, IoT devices can be exploited to commit DDoS attacks. They can also be endpoints in ransomware attacks. Hackers can tamper with devices as well — a smart IV could either be shut down, denying a patient life-saving medication, or it could be programmed to administer too much medicine, which could have severe side effects.
These scenarios are all frightening. However, consumers, businesses, and other organizations have tools at their disposal to protect themselves from these threats. When setting up an IoT device, don’t rely upon the manufacturer’s default password. Change it to something that’s difficult to guess so cybercriminals won’t easily be able to infiltrate the device.
It might sound as though the digital threat landscape in 2017 will be the most challenging yet. It doesn’t have to be, though. The impact of many threats can either be avoided completely or greatly mitigated. A combination of technological security and good old fashioned common sense will protect you and your devices.