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Cyber Threats of the Future: Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Business

The holiday season is a time for joy and celebration, but it’s also when cyber threats are at their peak. Safeguard yourself for a worry-free holiday season.

When we relaunched our website in 2021, we wrote about why. And one of the reasons was better security.

Photograph of Belinda D'Alessandro. Belinda is wearing a red jacket over a red dress and a string of pearls. She is standing in front of windows with shutters
Belinda D’Alessandro

People and businesses today are more digitally connected than ever before. Thanks to the internet, employees can work from anywhere worldwide, and customers can access your products anytime from wherever they are. This convenience is a double-edged sword — it’s easier for cyber criminals to attack businesses that rely on digital connections, and it’s also easier for companies to get hacked.

Cyber threats are rapidly evolving. The nature and scope of these challenges can be overwhelming, but knowing what to expect from the future can help you stay one step ahead of cybercriminals. In this report, we explore different ways you (and businesses) could face cyber-attacks in the future. We also offer insight into protecting yourself against each threat to become a more secure internet citizen.

The cybercriminals of today and tomorrow – who are they?

The hackers of today and tomorrow are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Many cybercriminals are out there and are getting better at hacking our information.

Person wearing a blue hoodie in front of a blue background. White gears float in front of the person.Let’s examine how cybercriminals can access your data, the organisations that hire them, and the methods they use to do this. It will also discuss the future of cybercrime and how best to protect yourself from it.

Cybercrime is an ever-growing problem, growing at an alarming rate. According to an IBM report, the global average data breach cost in 2023 was USD 4.45 million, a 15% increase over 3 years. Cybercriminals are getting bolder every day, and there are hacking attacks happening all over the globe that could be affecting your business right now.

The easiest way for you (and businesses) to defend against cyber criminals is to educate yourself about what you are up against. Cybercriminals come from many different backgrounds and work in many different ways. Business owners should familiarise themselves with the different types of threats.

The cybercrime industry is lucrative – from phishing scams to ransomware, cybercriminals are making a lot of money by exploiting the vulnerabilities of others.

To answer this question, we only need to examine the most successful cybercriminal enterprises. Over the years, many have been revealed and shut down for good. By studying their business models, we can learn about how cybercrime enterprises are born and what we can do to stop them in their tracks.

Cybercrime has snowballed over the last couple of years. Cybercrime Magazine estimated that cybercrime will cost the world $8 trillion in 2023. With such huge numbers, it’s no wonder more and more people are interested in this field.

Here are the three most common types of cybercriminals you’re likely to come across:

  • Script kiddies are novice hackers who have found a vulnerability in network security and exploited it for their gain. Most don’t know how to write code, but they can still use pre-existing tools and scripts to launch attacks. They often target easy and widely known vulnerabilities, making them a nuisance for individuals and small organisations.
  • Hacktivists are motivated by political or social causes. They use hacking skills to promote their ideologies or protest specific individuals, organisations, or governments. Their attacks are usually more sophisticated and can cause significant disruption to their targets.
  • Professional cybercriminals operate solely for financial gain and engage in illegal online activities. These individuals are highly skilled and organised, often working in large criminal networks. Their primary motivation is to exploit vulnerabilities in digital systems and steal sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, bank account details, and personal identification information. These cybercriminals employ malicious tactics, including phishing scams, ransomware attacks, and identity theft, to achieve their illicit goals.

Due to the lucrative nature of their activities, professional cybercriminals dedicate significant time and effort to planning and executing their schemes. They constantly adapt their strategies to stay ahead of cybersecurity measures and law enforcement agencies. They avoid detection and prosecution by staying anonymous and obfuscating their digital footprints, enabling them to continue their illegal actions.

A person wearing a hoodie standing in a server room. Padlocks float in front of the person and servers.Financial gain drives their actions, so these cybercriminals often prioritise attacking businesses and organisations with valuable financial data. They exploit weaknesses in security systems, infiltrating corporate networks and compromising sensitive information, which they can later sell on the dark web for substantial profits. Their activities cause severe financial losses for businesses and disrupt the lives of countless individuals who fall victim to their scams.

Professional cybercriminals are adept at exploiting the fear and vulnerabilities of individuals. They prey on people’s lack of knowledge and desire for quick and easy monetary gains, luring them into fraudulent schemes. Through targeted email campaigns, they trick unsuspecting individuals into providing personal and financial information, leading to identity theft and financial ruin.

The prevalence of professional cybercriminals highlights the pervasive and ever-evolving nature of cyber threats in today’s digital world. With the constant advancements in technology, these individuals continuously find new avenues and techniques to exploit, making it crucial for individuals and organisations to remain vigilant and proactive in safeguarding their digital assets.

What are some of the biggest cyber threats of the future?

Current cyber threats are a combination of several different things that make the attacks very effective. The major cyber threats take advantage of essential human characteristics in nearly everyone.

A person's hands over a laptop. The left hand is sitting on the keyboard, the right hand is holding a phone. Online icons hover over the topThe first is to entice people with something they want. This could be a fake celebrity account, a big announcement, or a way to show off some quick cash. These motives will get people to click links and download attachments, which can lead to malware and other problems.

Another standard method is phishing, where an email (or message on any social network) appears to come from someone you trust and provides a sense of urgency or importance. These phishing emails often claim an issue with your account or that you must verify your personal information immediately. This tricks individuals into providing sensitive data, such as passwords or credit card details, which can be used for malicious purposes. It is crucial to stay vigilant and verify the authenticity of any suspicious emails or messages before acting.

The number of cyber-attacks is on the rise, so businesses need to be aware of the significant threats that lie ahead. Cybercrime is a huge industry, and it’s only projected to grow.

A quick Google search will bring up millions of pages on cyber security, but most of them are attempts to sell you something. Let’s discuss the most significant cyber threats and how to prepare yourself and your business for them.

How can they affect your small business?

A cyber-attack or cyber-crime is a malicious intrusion or act that exploits computer networks, including hardware and software, to cause damage, steal data from the computer systems involved, or gain unauthorised entry into those systems.

The most common means of cyber-attack are viruses and other malware, which spread programs that can record keystrokes and steal information from the computer. Since the malware can be programmed to infect multiple systems, it can quickly spread to other computers. Hackers then use the stolen credit card information to purchase at different locations or sell them on the black market.

There are several things that small businesses should do to prevent cyber-attacks. Here are some tips to make sure your small business is safe from cyber threats:

  • Ensure your computers and mobile devices have the latest security software.
  • Don’t open suspicious email attachments from unknown senders and any attachments you weren’t expecting.
  • Update your website with the most recent version of WordPress, and use a secure connection for payments.
  • Keep an eye on when your credit card information was last stolen. If this happens, immediately contact your bank or credit card company to lock your card and request a new one.

Cyber threats can come in various forms and cause many problems for small businesses. One major issue is data breaches. Once information has been released, it can be used for phishing scams, identity theft, and targeted attacks.

Wall of white text angled from left to right on a black backgroundAnother source of cyber threats is ransomware. Ransomware, or crypto-virus, is malware that holds your computer or files hostage by encrypting them and demanding payment to decrypt them.

Other major cyber threats to be aware of are phishing attacks and email spoofing. Phishing attacks occur when scammers send fraudulent emails or messages pretending to be from a reputable source, such as a bank or a popular online service, to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information like passwords or credit card details.

On the other hand, email spoofing involves forging the sender’s email address to make it appear as if the email is coming from someone else. This technique often deceives recipients into opening malicious attachments or clicking on harmful links that can lead to malware infections or data breaches.

Individuals must be aware of these cyber threats and take necessary precautions to protect themselves and their sensitive information. Phishing attacks have become increasingly sophisticated over the years, making it harder for people to distinguish between legitimate and fraudulent emails. Always double-check the sender’s email address and look out for any suspicious signs, such as spelling mistakes or requests for personal information.

Additionally, email spoofing can be particularly dangerous as it can give the illusion of a trusted source, making recipients more likely to fall for the scam. To defend against email spoofing, individuals should be cautious about clicking on links or downloading attachments from unfamiliar sources.

Rendering of a rail map in blue electric lights on a black backgroundInstalling up-to-date anti-virus software on devices is also recommended to detect and prevent potential malware threats. By staying vigilant and being aware of these cyber threats, individuals can reduce their risk of falling victim to phishing attacks and email spoofing.

Cyber threats are a severe problem for businesses of all sizes. While some of these threats may not directly impact you, they could still be used to target your customers or employees. Cyber-attacks aren’t going away anytime soon, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your employees.

The first step is to assess the current security of your business. This means regularly updating software, using two-factor authentication, and avoiding suspicious links. If you haven’t done so already, implementing a formal cybersecurity strategy to protect your business against common threats is also a good idea.

Protecting your business from cyber threats

There are a few different types of cyber threats:

  • malware
  • viruses and spyware
  • hackers, crackers, and phishers
  • “hacktivists”

Cyber threats are one of the biggest problems of the 21st century. It is a complex issue that requires a large amount of attention from different fields. Cybersecurity has been a hot topic for many years, but it has recently gained even more traction since the “The Equifax Breach” event. A significant cyber-attack hacked the personal information of more than 140 million people, including government identification numbers (Social Security Number in the US).

Multi-coloured lines in a circle on a black backgroundIt’s no secret that cyber threats are increasing, and everyone needs to take action to prevent them before they occur. The biggest problem with cyber threats is that they constantly evolve and become more sophisticated.

This makes it challenging for individuals and organisations to stay ahead of the game and effectively protect themselves. Additionally, cyber threats pose a risk to personal information and critical infrastructure, making it crucial for governments and industries to collaborate in developing robust cybersecurity measures.

Cybersecurity is a critical component of any business. Unfortunately, the cybersecurity of small businesses tends to be more vulnerable than larger enterprises. This can lead to severe problems that can put your company at considerable risk. Data breaches and cyber-attacks have cost small businesses millions of dollars in damages over the past few years, and these costs are only going up.

Here are some easy tips to ensure your business can survive the threat of cybercrime. The tips provided here are based on stories about small businesses that were attacked and how they survived.

Things to do to protect yourself:

1. Install an Anti-virus and Keep It Updated

We call this type of software anti-virus, but fending off actual computer viruses is just one small part of what they do. Ransomware encrypts your files and demands payment to restore them. Trojan horse programs seem valid, but they steal your private information behind the scenes. Bots turn your computer into a soldier in a zombie army, ready to engage in a denial-of-service attack, spew spam, or whatever the bot herder commands. An effective anti-virus protects against these and many other kinds of malware.

Man in a suit with an outstreatched arm, holding a gold shield with a white check mark on a sparkly backgroundIn theory, you can set and forget your anti-virus protection, letting it hum along in the background, download updates, and so on. In practice, you should look it over every now and then. Most anti-virus utilities display a green banner or icon when everything is hunky-dory. If you open the utility and see yellow or red, follow the instructions to get things back on track.

You may be thinking, wait, isn’t anti-virus built into Windows? Not only is Microsoft Windows Defender Security Center baked into the operating system, but it automatically takes over protection when it detects no other anti-virus and just as automatically steps aside when you install third-party protection. This built-in anti-virus doesn’t compare with the best third-party solutions. Even the best free ones are way better than Windows Defender. Don’t rely on it; you can do better.

Whether you’ve chosen a simple anti-virus program or a complete security suite, you must renew it yearly. Your best bet is to enrol in automatic renewal. With some security products, doing so enables a malware-free guarantee. You can always opt out later to switch to a different product.

One more thing. If your anti-virus or security suite doesn’t have ransomware protection, consider adding a separate layer of protection. Many ransomware-specific utilities are free, so there’s no reason not to try a few and select the one that suits you best.

2. Make sure your devices are up to date

If you don’t have your security software, web browsers, and devices set to update automatically, turn on those automatic updates now. Updates often include critical fixes for any security holes that may have been detected in your programs or devices.

3. Use strong passwords

A gold padlock on a blue and white backgroundThere are several ways to protect yourself from identity theft online, and using strong passwords is one of them. Unfortunately, even now, people still use passwords like “12345678” or “password.” Don’t use those, and don’t use your dog’s name or your kids’ birthdays.

The best password is one you can remember but will be hard for others, even malicious programs that try every password combination under the sun, to guess. An abbreviated sentence, or passphrase, is often better than a single word with numbers and symbols inserted.

Or you can use a password management app to generate and store your passwords. A password manager can also help you generate unique passwords for your online accounts. For extra security, change your passwords several times per year.

4. Use two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication requires you to verify your identity after you’ve logged in using your username and password. Sometimes, you’ll be asked to verify your identity by entering a code sent by text to your phone or email.

Other times, you’ll have to answer a security question whenever two-factor authentication is available, opt-in. It may take you a couple of extra seconds to log in to your accounts, but it can make it less likely that other people will be able to log into your accounts, too.

5. Don’t click on strange-looking links

Viruses and other forms of malware often spread because you click on a link from someone you know. If you receive a link that looks strange (for instance, it may have typos) from a trusted friend or family member, contact them to ask if the link you’ve received was sent on purpose. You might have to wait a bit to watch that funny viral video, but better safe than sorry.

If you don’t want to wait for a response from your friend or family member, copy and paste the link into a reputable link checker. But remember: Don’t click on the link.

6. Avoid using unsecured public Wi-Fi

A woman's face looking at a wall of text on a black backgroundIf possible, try to avoid accessing unsecured public Wi-Fi on your devices. Using it can make you vulnerable to predatory practices. If you must use it, avoid entering compromising information on any websites, like your government identification numbers (e.g., Medicare numbers in Australia or Social Security Numbers in the US) or financial information.

Better yet, use a VPN or virtual private network to browse when you’re not at home. This will encrypt the data you send and receive, making it much harder to intercept.

7. Back up your data regularly

If you become a victim of malware, such as ransomware, you might not be able to get your data back. That is unless you’ve backed up your data.

When you back up your data, you can make security breaches less problematic. If a hacker encrypts your data and demands a ransom to unencrypt it, it won’t be that big of a deal if you backed it up a week ago.

8. Be savvy with financial information

Be mindful of where you enter information, like your credit card number online. Before purchasing anything on a website, ensure the URL starts with “https://.” The “s” at the end is critical because it indicates that your connection is encrypted. Don’t purchase anything from a website that doesn’t have this.

Also, you should think twice about saving your financial information to websites you buy from, even if you shop with them frequently. Storing your information on their site could make it easier for hackers to access it if a company’s website or network suffers a data breach.

9. Educate your family

You can take all the proper precautions on your home security network, but if your family and other people using your network aren’t doing their part to keep everything secure, your efforts might not be enough.

Ensure that everyone who regularly uses your network knows how to help keep it secure. Kids can learn about cyber safety, too.

10. Avoid sharing personal information

It’s easy to get comfortable sharing too much personal information online. But you may be surprised at how much damage cyber criminals can do with just a little information.

To keep it safe, never share identifying details, like your full name, address, or financial information, with strangers you meet online. You should also be careful about the usernames you create for websites — they do not need to include your real name.

Image of a smart phone showing social media icons sitting on a laptop keyboardAnd be sparing with the amount of information you share in online surveys or forms. Most of the time, little to no personal information is genuinely needed to complete them.

Staying safer online can feel challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re still learning to protect yourself against online predators or scams, just treat interactions online the way you would with a stranger walking down the street.

You probably wouldn’t open anything they give you, hand them your credit card, or lead them to your home address. The same rules can help you stay safer online.

11. Don’t open emails (or text messages) from strangers

If you get a phishing email with malware attached, you don’t have to download the attachment for it to do damage to your home network. That’s because drive-by downloads can install malware on your hard drive without you even agreeing to download them.

Sometimes, a drive-by download might disguise itself as a standard system update or another innocuous “yes/no” question, and even the most cyber-savvy among us can be fooled. For this reason, it’s a good idea to avoid opening emails from addresses you don’t know.

At the end of the day

Cyber threats are growing daily, but you can protect yourself and your business with a few proactive steps. We’ve discussed ways to give yourself an edge over cyber criminals targeting you and your business today.

Cyber threats are everywhere, and they’re constantly getting more advanced. It’s essential to stay informed and current on the latest cyber threats that could affect your business to protect yourself from any potential dangers.

Cyber threats are not new and have been around for decades. However, the growing sophistication and spread of cybercrime have increased the number of cases reported each year and their severity. As companies expand globally and online, so will the threat of cyber-attacks.

Final thoughts

We’ve explored some possible dangers that could be faced by businesses across different industries, such as healthcare, e-commerce, media & entertainment, tech and banking, among many others in the digital age. Organisations must stay updated on the latest cybersecurity measures and invest in robust protection systems to safeguard their sensitive data and networks.

Additionally, fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness among employees through regular training and education can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to cyber-attacks.

The cyber threats of the future will only continue to get worse, so you must take steps today to protect your business. Think about our tips and strategies; you can be sure your company will be ready for anything soon.

Which of these cyber threats do you think is most likely to occur? How do you plan on preparing yourself for this threat? Please let us know in the comments.

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