As alarming as it may sound, it is undeniable that everyone is susceptible to cyber attacks. Hacking is a growing concern, as the news highlights illustrate targeted organizations every month. Hackers can target anyone, and it is our responsibility to protect ourselves and know the strategies on how to prevent cyber attacks from happening.
How Hackers Infiltrate
In April 2018, about 400 Australian companies were hacked by the Russian government. The attack’s purpose was to “support espionage, extract intellectual property, maintain access to victim networks, and potentially lay a foundation for future offensive operations”. This according to a joint warning by the US and UK governments. The modus operandi was to target end-of-life devices, such as routers without encryption and authentication, compromising network infrastructure.
A month before the Russian cyber attack, an Iranian-affiliated organization hacked more than 20 universities, again, in Australia. The attack used seemingly innocuous phishing email campaigns. The hackers stole login credentials of academics to obtain research, academic journals, theses, and e-books. These were then sold for cheap or free access.
Also in March, Atlanta dealt with a crippling city-wide ransomware attack. Malicious software blocked the municipal government’s access to important data until users paid a ransom to unlock them.
The Risk of Smart Devices
While smartphones, virtual personal assistants, and home automation systems make daily life convenient, these are also targets for cyber attacks. Smart refrigerators with built-in tablets can be a target for cyber criminals. Hackers could access your calendar, contacts, and other personal information. Hackers can even connect to smart light bulbs, thermostat, and locks, which they can remotely turn on and off. And with the ubiquity of interconnected devices, it is extremely easy for hackers to break into each one and collect any information they might need.
Cyber criminals could also hack into your phone’s GPS, where they can track your location, send you to a dangerous area, or alter location data. They can also hack smart cars by GPS. Hackers could put a driver into danger by controlling the console, cutting the transmission, or even by disabling the brakes.
Government Intervention in Cyber Attacks
The government is crucial in creating strong countermeasures and self-defense strategies. These plans must be preemptive and can cripple strikes before they happen. Reactive measures are not ideal deterrents as they may be too late in responding to breaches that have already been created in the security system.
The foundation of creating a cybersecurity masterplan is all about educating the public on how to prevent cyber attacks. Users must orient themselves to protect their online rights and privileges. Local government should invest in thoroughly informing the public about cyber attacks and securing public Internet services. For example, New York City has a free app called NYC Secure aimed to provide safe access to the Internet and defend against malicious activity.
Similarly, Jonesboro, Georgia, updated its citywide firewall software to protect taxpayer and city agency data. It also added cyber attack coverage in the city’s insurance with OneBeacon. Admittedly, they have had no security breaches yet. But they are aware that it is an old system that must be updated immediately.
Cyber Security at Your Fingertips, How to Prevent Cyber Attacks
There are a number of strategies that individuals can do to protect themselves online. Tech security expert Ed Bensigner shared a few tips on how to respond and prevent cyber attacks.
1. Avoid using public Wi-Fi
Hackers can easily create a public Wi-Fi with a trusty business name that users can confidently connect to. Hackers can gain access to their personal information, including usernames and passwords, as soon as they connect to the Wi-Fi. It is safer to use your own mobile data or to bring your own personal hotspot.
2. Restart your router
After a security breach, restart your router to intercept any ongoing processes trying to gain access to your computers. Change the password, disable remote access, and install computer and network updates to prevent future router attacks.
3. Change your passwords
While it is extremely convenient to use the same password for multiple accounts, you are essentially putting your privacy in jeopardy. Change your passwords every month or so with a wide range of letters, numbers, and symbols to make it more difficult for hackers to break into your accounts.
There are so many ways where our privacy can be violated, and we must stay vigilant for worst-case scenarios that could happen. We should constantly remind ourselves that our privacy is paramount. And we must use all the available tools at our disposal to ensure that cyber attacks do not incapacitate us anymore.