All criminals have the same mindset — to find a vulnerable target and exploit their weaknesses. It is true for thieves trying to break into a house, and it’s as accurate for hackers trying to break into someone’s computer. Those who have glaring vulnerabilities always have bigger targets on their backs.
People used to be more protected from outside threats. They didn’t have that many exposed vulnerabilities as many have now. Almost everyone has a smartphone and a personal computer. Internet use keeps growing — over 366 million new users went online in 2019. Homes have become digital too. The Internet of Things connects everything from light bulbs to dishwashers. And let’s not forget about the businesses, relying on technology for their daily operations. No wonder cyberattacks have grown to cost around $200,000 on average.
All connected devices create what’s known as a large “attack surface” for cybercriminals. It takes much less effort for criminals to get access to devices of billions of people from around the world. Digital devices have evolved a lot, but they also opened whole new ways for hackers to take advantage of them.
That raises a question — what can people do in the face of all this? Being aware of the biggest threats they’re facing, and taking some steps to head criminals off is an excellent place to start. These are the top cyber threats to look out for in 2020.
IoT Security Vulnerabilities
IoT devices are taking over the household and the office, providing an expansive list of perks. No one would argue that these endpoint devices add convenience to daily life. But the dilemma is that they also add an exceptional amount of security risk.
Many IoT devices aren’t created with security in mind. But even those that do still face many security challenges. Securing any new form of technology is challenging, and it’s no different from the Internet of Things. Developers address the bugs and security vulnerabilities as they come up. But early adopters still open themselves up to a lot of risks.
The best defense against this type of threat is having a secure network, and making sure that each device is as safe as possible. Not all IoT devices have robust security features, but it’s useful to at least use those features on the ones that do.
Third-Party Data Breaches
Both individual people and companies share their data with a long list of third-party providers. Some do it willingly, but others not. For instance, by installing an app, you can agree to share the data with the developer or its partners. Meanwhile, many websites gather data about their visitors and store it to use later or share with ad partners.
The issue when this data, gathered left and right, puts a big target on the companies’ backs. It’s the reason why data breaches have become such a pervasive issue. New rules and regulations like the GDPR are coming into effect to try and cope with this problem. But there’s still a lot to do, and the cybersecurity industry isn’t quite catching up fast enough. Data breaches will continue to be a major headache in 2020.
Social Engineering (Phishing and Pharming)
If there’s such a thing as a “classic” cyberattack exploit, then this is it. Criminals have been tricking others into handing over personal details or downloading malware for years. Phishing is so commonplace that you’d think people would be better equipped to deal with this type of attack. But that’s not always the case.
Remember the Nigerian prince scam? It’s still going strong, and scammers keep raking in over $700,000 a year through that one type of fraud alone. And then there are hundreds of other scams and hackers keep trying out new techniques.
Nowadays, phishing scams are harder to identify, and they are more targeted as well. Sure, broad, unfocused scams are still commonplace. But targeted (or spear-phishing) attacks have been gaining favor as they tend to have a higher success rate. Whaling attacks are now something that many business executives have to deal with on a regular basis, as well.
None of this will change going into 2020. If anything, it will get worse. Proper education and awareness are still the only defenses against social engineering. And that’s what makes such attacks so dangerous.
Ransomware wasn’t much of an issue 10+ years ago. But now, it has become one of the most rampantly growing cyber threats. It’s not the most prevalent type of online attack (yet), but it can be one of the most devastating to businesses. So devastating that, in fact, companies lost more than $8 billion to ransomware attacks in 2018 alone.
The best way to deal with the possibility of a ransomware attack is to invest in quality encryption software for Windows PCs and Macs. Backup should also become a standard practice for companies. It’s essential for staving off the fallout from a ransomware attack since no crucial data can get lost in the process.
Cloud Computing Isn’t Foolproof
Many consider cloud computing a much more secure environment than traditional servers. Plus, it’s a much cheaper option for businesses that don’t want to buy and maintain their own systems. But while cloud computing technology is a secure option, it isn’t invulnerable.
One of the most notorious cloud security breaches in recent times was the infamous Apple iCloud breach. It exposed the content from celebrities’ accounts. Sure, it wasn’t directed at businesses, but there have been plenty more attacks that were.
It’s time to follow the best practices. Companies should schedule a time for regular cloud monitoring and assessment. Complacency leads to devastating situations where breaches happen and aren’t contained fast enough.
It was a tough year for businesses worldwide. They had to contend with an onslaught of threats and attacks from all angles. Things aren’t exactly looking to improve in 2020, as criminals keep expanding their efforts. But businesses need to stay ahead of the curve if they want to protect their assets and keep sticky fingers out of their valuable data.