Cyber attacks skyrocket. Are you vulnerable?

Cyber security is no joke and the sharp rise of recent cyber attacks clearly illustrates that for those who lurk on the dark side of the Internet, hacking is a lucrative business.

However, you may be surprised to learn that it’s not just your financial information crooks are after. Online thieves use stolen email addresses to lure users into giving away even more information, including birthdates, credit card numbers, and bank account access. In this way, they can steal identities and apply for credit cards or loans, enjoying a long-term pay out as opposed to just a one-time credit/debit card spending spree.

Individuals need to be vigilant, but should businesses be worried as well? Unequivocally, yes. IBM estimates businesses are attacked an average of 16,856 times a year.

Major hacks in 2016

Cyber attacks are ubiquitous. It seems as if the media reports on a new attack almost daily. The criminals’ targets aren’t small potatoes either, recognizing they can net much more when they hack a corporation instead of one person at a time. As such, they’re targeting some of the largest organizations and corporations in the world. Notable hacks from this year alone include:

Anthem—The country’s second largest health insurer said as many as 18.8 million of their customers who’ve used their insurance in the last decade were victimized.

Premera Blue Cross—A cyber attack exposed medical data and financial information of 11 million patients. That included claims data, bank account numbers, social security numbers, birth dates and more. Medical records are highly valuable on the black market because they can be used to engage in insurance fraud.

Google, Yahoo, Hotmail and Microsoft—Cyber security professionals warn anyone with a personal email account (in other words, nearly everyone on the planet) to change passwords in light of a massive cache of stolen user names and passwords being offered for sale on the Internet.

In addition to these, other breaches include 164 million MySpace users, 37 million at AshleyMadison, 10,000 WordPress Users, the London Stock Exchange, the Indian government and Twitter. Even Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, had his Twitter and Pinterest accounts hacked.

What can you do to protect yourself and your organization?

As an individual:

  • Freeze. If you discover you’ve been hacked, immediately ask all three credit bureaus to put a freeze on your accounts. This way, any attempts to hijack your credit will be automatically declined until you give permission to thaw your credit.
  • Be vigilant. Monitor your bank account and credit accounts even months after a hack. The sheer volume of victims whose information is vulnerable after an attack means you might not see illegal activity for several months or more.
  • Credit report. At a minimum, check your credit report yearly to ensure no erroneous accounts are listed.

As an organization:

  • Update. Keep your anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware up to date.
  • Back up. Guarantee that your valuable data, systems, and servers are backed up to the cloud to ensure easy retrieval should your system get hacked or hijacked.


Password do’s and don’ts

  • Do use different passwords for each site at which you register.
  • Do use abstract combos of letters, numbers, and characters that aren’t easy to guess.
  • Do use credit monitoring services to track for suspicious activity such as someone applying for credit or a loan in your name.
  • Don’t use the names of your children, pets, or home addresses as passwords. They’re too easy to find online.
  • Don’t answer suspicious emails that ask for sensitive information such as your address, banking information, or social security number.

Order up some geek food

Techies have a language all their own. Not surprisingly, many of their terms are related to food. Do you know these?

  1. Name the information that a web site places on your hard drive so it can quickly recall you at a later time.
  2. One version is served with cheese. This type is someone who breaks into someone else’s computer and breaches security.
  3. You might find these on a hunt in the spring, or as an undocumented feature that gives credit to a software developer.