In 2017, cyber attacks resulted in historical breaches. The WannaCry ransomware attack in May affected more than 300,000 computers and cost hundreds of millions, to possibly billions of dollars. The Equifax breach compromised the financial data of over 140 million Americans.
The success of these attacks will only embolden hackers and other cyber criminals in 2018.
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The Cost of Cyber Attacks
Cyber attacks impact all of us. They compromise sensitive personal data and drive up security costs for businesses. While front-page news attacks may be on the order of every few months, small-scale data breaches occur all the time.
In fact, a cyber attack occurs once every 39 seconds. On average, these attacks cost large enterprises $1.3 million and small and medium-sized businesses $117 thousand. What’s more, they impact one in three Americans every year.
Reliance and use of internet connected technology are only increasing. That means we can expect an increase in data breaches and cyber attacks in 2018. These are some of the most substantial threats to cyber security for the coming year.
Attacks With Ransomware
Ransomware is a cyber attack that utilizes malicious software to encrypt and block access to a computer or computer system. The attacker threatens to destroy or publish the data and demands a ransom for access to the compromised system. Ransomware attacks have become an increasingly popular cyber attack lately due to the relative simplicity of the malware and the pliability of victims.
Smaller companies and individuals are the most vulnerable and are often the targets of this particular attack. As more and more data is stored in the cloud, often without a backup, ransomware attacks will only increase.
This can be a particularly effective form of cyber attack because the ransom is typically a low figure and demanded in cryptocurrency with is virtually impossible to trace.
As such, most small companies and individuals would rather simply pay the ransom for restored access than involve authorities or possibly lose their valuable data.
Hacking The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is on the verge of becoming mainstream. Every day, more and more of our devices are connected to the internet, including ones that historically haven’t before like cars and coffee makers. That means each of those devices is collecting and processing data and storing sensitive information.
From home AI units to smart cars, to smart watches, the IoT will change day to day life in many ways.
While the emerging IoT is good news for consumers, medical patients and professionals, it also represents a potential goldmine for criminals with more targets at risk. Hackers and data thieves will look for ways to gain access to networks of unsecured IoT devices.
These devices will be hacked for data, locked for ransom, and compromised simply to cause chaos. It’s incredibly important for individuals and companies to secure the networks used by these IoT devices.
Cryptocurrencies are front page news. The incredible valuation of Bitcoin demonstrates the interest and value of this new form of currency. While most people don’t understand what cryptocurrency is or how it works, hackers and data thieves are well aware of how it’s created and its value.
Mining, or creating, Cryptocurrency requires massive amounts of computing power. That’s because most cryptocurrencies are mined by solving highly complex mathematical problems. These complex problems require vast amounts of computing capabilities.
In 2018, hackers will hijack computers to utilize their computing capacity to mine cryptocurrency. It’s an unusual breach, because hackers compromise computers not to gain access to the data, but to siphon the computing capacity in order to mine cryptocurrency.
As you can imagine, if sensitive computers are breached and used to mine cryptocurrency, services like air travel, hospital care, traffic control, law enforcement, and other necessary services could be compromised.
Attacks That Influence Elections
According to US intelligence officials, directed Russian cyber attacks were able to breach state and local electoral boards during the 2016 election.
While officials claim that no votes were altered on Election Day, it’s clear our voting procedures and voting machines are vulnerable.
The 2018 midterm elections will be politically charged and much debated, however, they will also be threatened by the risk of cyber attack. The report from the intelligence community demonstrates the potential targets for hackers. While much was made of potential voter fraud, as of now, little has been done publicly to protect our election process from cyber attack.
In 2018, state-sponsored hackers will likely target voter registration systems in order to alter or delete names from voter rolls. Polling stations can be changed, check-in systems compromised, and much more. These cyber attacks aren’t carried out for financial gain, rather, they will be conducted to cause chaos and alter voting outcomes.
In other words, hackers will attempt to alter the democratic processes that form the bedrock of the United States. The success of state-sponsored cyber attacks in 2016 will only encourage more attacks in 2018 and beyond.
Cloud computing is transforming the technological landscape. It provides a flexible, scalable, dynamic way to store, share, and process data and applications. However, it also represents a great opportunity for data hackers and cyber criminals.
Many enterprises utilize public and hybrid cloud options. These multi-tenancy clouds provide openings for hackers to compromise. Weaknesses in identity and credential management enable hackers to access systems.
As more and more data migrates to the cloud, hackers are beginning to focus their attacks on compromising poorly secured cloud deployments.
It’s hard to believe, but user error will still be a major source of cyber attack in 2018. Using company computers to download files, opening emails from unknown senders, entering personal information on unsecured websites, and other online activity can give hackers a foothold in networks and systems.
This includes falling for scams via phishing emails. In November, it was reported that the US military conducted a successful phishing attack with a fake news story about the death of whistleblower Edward Snowden to test its cybersecurity that revealed vulnerabilities with its own service members.
Ensuring your staff follows best practices is still one of the best defenses against cyber attack.
New Year, New Threats
2018 will see increases in attempted data theft and hacking. Protect yourself and your computer system by using up to date anti-virus software, using two-factor authentication, implementing daily backups, and using common sense online.
Cyber security experts can help you ensure you protect your valuable computer network. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Shore up your cyber security and protect yourself from cyber attacks in 2018.
About the author:
Lance Waterly is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley, CA. He spent nearly twenty years in the T&M industry, and now enjoys writing about his experiences and consulting for IT companies. In his free time, he takes his grandkids on long walks through their neighborhood.