We are currently inhabiting a digital world. People’s personal lives, relationships, even entire companies are migrating to online platforms, databases, and software. And while this change was already recognizable in the past years, this year has made more of an impact than ever before.
The Coronavirus outbreak has forced people to adapt to this change at a rapid pace, as businesses of all shapes and sizes moved online, and people started working remotely. This opened doors for more innovation in the area, and also escalated the trend of “virtual nomadism”. This means that people are free to change location to their desire, as their main office is virtual, and they conduct business mainly online.
This independence from a fixed location means that people need to completely rethink their values, and introduce new principles and a completely new way of thinking into their lives. Because it not only means we are free of limitations, but we also have to become more accountable in every perceivable way. To find out more you can click here.
This brings up many new obstacles, and new skills we must master. And some of the most lucrative skills today involve understanding, working with, and protecting data. In fact, these skills are at the top of the list of things employers look for when hiring new employees.
Now that virtually none of our valuables are tangible. We must learn to work with, invest with, and also protect virtual tools and values. This phenomenon concerns everything from marketing to finances and more.
Along with this major change comes a change in finances and currency. New platforms and databases are emerging that allow people to keep all of their assets in virtual wallets, and conduct business with so-called cryptocurrency.
Cryptocurrency was first introduced by Bitcoin in 2009. This was the first decentralized peer-to-peer payment system created and has led to the booming of cryptocurrencies of all kinds. These types of payment allow people to stay anonymous, and independent from government agencies.
And while this technology is more than a decade old, 2018 and 2019 started the golden years of the practice. There’s no saying where this might lead to, but it’s safe to say that it’s not going anywhere. In fact, it could grow to become the number one way people pay for products and services in this century.
According to NextAdvisor, and their article about experts’ opinion on the matter, cryptocurrency has skyrocketed this past year. New approvals, regulations, investment opportunities, and entire institutions are introduced solely for the purpose of keeping this new trend at bay.
So with all of these changes coming at a rapid pace, there’s one crucial component that must be added to most of our everyday lives. Because all of our valuables are now in a virtual space, they’re constantly exposed to security risks. As a result, cybersecurity is growing rapidly and is already part of most of our lives.
What is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is responsible for protecting and also recovering data from any form of cyberattacks. These attacks are incredibly hard to identify, and with the evolution of our online presence, this too is growing and becoming more sophisticated, making it the number one enemy of sensitive data stored virtually.
As we become more reliant on technology than ever before, criminals also rely on these platforms when attacking our valuables. Government agencies became aware of this rising risk factor, and have given the responsibility of securing these assets to companies. Not only do they minimize the risks of attack, but they provide resources to recover from these types of attacks.
Having the foundations for maximum security within your company allows you and your employees to focus on the growth of the business rather than constantly worrying about attacks. Companies are now obligated to secure all of the sensitive personal information of customers and employees, as well as their own assets via cybersecurity.
This is because the reputation of the company lies on its security, and even one small attack can tarnish the reputation of a company, and result in negative publicity. Almost 50% of customers and employees claim that they would leave a company if they lose or compromise data.
The Importance of Cybersecurity
The need for cybersecurity is increasing constantly, because the number of attacks is growing as well, and they are proving to be more dangerous. From anonymous virtual wallets to social media profiles, our sensitive information are all around the internet and could be the victim of an attack at any time.
Data leaks that result in identity theft aren’t unheard of, which is why these social platforms are increasingly aware of these threats and are doing everything they can to provide security for users, as well as provide safe and fast recovery for victims.
Apart from this, all of our personal information is also stored on cloud-based storage like Dropbox or Google Drive.
As mentioned before, it’s very important to consider our growing presence on virtual platforms. Because whether you’re using it for your personal convenience, or you’re a small or large business, chances are, you rely heavily on computers each day.
Connect this information with the rise in cloud-based storage, poor security, the internet, and even the existence of smartphones, and you are left with an endless list of cybersecurity threats that you didn’t even know existed a few weeks ago.
And because new and improved threats are popping up around every corner, the government, and cybersecurity companies have to keep up with these innovations and come up with productive solutions in an extremely short amount of time.
Because of this, business owners can no longer rely on their own cybersecurity solutions, like downloading antivirus software, firewalls, and so on. Cybercriminals are getting smarter, and their approach is becoming more intelligent and resilient, meaning that these conventional defenses no longer suffice.
Having an amateur security solution makes you an irresistible target for these criminals, and only puts you on their radar.
Why is Cybercrime Increasing?
If these platforms and cryptocurrency databases were already introduced a decade ago, then why is cybercrime increasing now more than ever before?
Excerpts believe that this pattern was already in motion, and started in the physical world, then slowly migrated to digital platforms. So by the time the world went through the significant shift of storing virtually everything online, this medium of crime was already prepared for the shift.
According to MBN (Market Business News), more than 790,000 complaints were reported in 2020, with a cumulative loss of over $4 billion. This is an over 60% rise compared to the losses of 2019. The same pattern was noticed in Google. The report showed that at the start of the pandemic, the company blocked over 18 million phishing attempts per day!
Following the math, “in 2021, cybercrime is expected to cause $6 trillion USD in global damages.” says the article published on MBN. And it’s estimated that this number will only grow with the years, resulting in the “largest transfer of economic resources in history”.
The fastest-growing part of cybercrime is information theft. But other than “simple” identity theft, these attacks are becoming more and more intelligent. So much so, that apart from stealing someone’s identity, attacks can also compromise and change data to breed distrust in a company.
Cybercriminals’ approaches are becoming much more intelligent and calculated, so cybersecurity agencies and companies need to adapt to this change and prepare for the protection and rehabilitation of targets.
Criminals can access information like credit card numbers, bank account details, health information, trade secrets, intellectual property, and even targets of industrial espionage and more seemingly easily, resulting in the increasing number of these attacks.
Some other factors resulting in the evolution of cybercrimes include:
- The growing ability to attack targets outside of their jurisdiction (because of the introduction of more services that advertise anonymity and independence from government agencies)
- The increasing profitability of stolen data on the dark web
- The increasing number of smartphones and the Internet of Things (IoT)
Economic Impacts of Cybercrime
According to a report conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), cybercrime costs the world economy over $1 trillion, or just over one percent of global GDP. this is a more than 50% increase compared to a 2018 study.
These damages include theft of intellectual property, corporate information, leaking of trading information, and more.
Reputational Damage Due to Cyber Attacks
Any form of cyber theft can result in the loss of customer and employee trust, even if the company immediately responds and starts recovery. A cyber attack can also invite negative publicity, resulting in the loss of future customers.
Laws regulating the effects of these crimes don’t allow businesses of any size to ignore these threats. This also means that even the smallest security incident can make it to the front pages, damaging the reputation of your company.
Cybercrime can also result in stock slides. Various companies are seen suffering data breaches involving millions of customers. These data breaches not only translate to reputational damages but also financial damage, due to the recovery after the attack.
But the reputational damage can be clearly visualized through the damage of these companies’ share value. The immediate aftermath of a breach like this can translate to an over 5% slide in share price.
And apart from the immediate consequences of an attack, there’s an impact on the long-term reputation of a company as well. A business’ market value can suffer a drop of up to 25% in market value even over the years following the attack.
How to Protect Your Company Against Attacks
Governments all around the world are bringing awareness to and regulating cybercrimes. A perfect example is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is the toughest privacy and security law in the world. They are regulating all organizations that operate in the EU.
These regulations include:
- The obligation of communicating data breaches
- The obligation of appointing a data protection officer in companies
- The obligation of requiring user consent to process information
- The obligation of anonymizing data, ensuring privacy
And while there aren’t any national laws overseeing data breaches in the United States, this trend of regulating public disclosure is not limited to Europe only. All 50 states are protected by various data breach laws, including:
- The requirement of communicating breaches, and all attacks that you may know of even outside of your company
- The payment of fines varying depending on states (in California, since 2003, companies can be fined up to $7,500 per victim)
- The obligation of reporting to the government as soon as possible
Apart from keeping up with government regulations, there are several things you can do to ensure an attack like this won’t happen to you, or if it does, you are prepared for the consequences.
The number one thing you should do is educate your staff because threats can come from any level of your company. Your employees must know about these scams like phishing, and even more sophisticated attacks like ransomware attacks, or malware designed to steal intellectual property.
If your staff is taught how to identify and respond to certain cyber attacks, or even the slightest hint of an attack can mean that the bigger part of the attacks can be avoided.
Another important factor that increases the need for raising awareness is that businesses must protect their remote employees from these attacks, so they have to be aware of these threats, and learn to identify them.
Additionally, without their knowledge, employees can bypass expensive security controls, if they’re not aware of their existence or function. Educating them of these factors can prevent these accidental bypasses, and can also help prevent and recognize threats.
Hiring Experts & Hackers
While some countries and states have regulations that make hiring an expert obligatory, even if you don’t have those regulations, it’s recommended to hire a cybersecurity expert. They can help create a strong structure for your security, and can also oversee damages and possible threats constantly.
There are several security companies that ensure your cybersecurity, and provide the best experts when it comes to building a foundation for your security. They also deal with damage control and the recovery of victims of cyberattacks.
But it’s not unheard of that certain companies utilize the knowledge of hackers, some even hiring black hat hackers as a part of their cybersecurity team. The reason for this is simple and logical.
When we employ a contractor to build or improve our home, we understandably look for someone who has tangible, reliable, hands-on experience. This is the driving logic behind employing black hat hackers as well.
While for some, it may seem counterintuitive to hire ex-criminals, they have knowledge and expertise that schools don’t teach. They know the trends of these criminals, they know the logic behind the attacks, and they can possibly even pinpoint the exact thing they’ll attack, and tell you when and how it’ll happen.
Another reason these hackers are one step ahead of the curve constantly is that they know firsthand what the logic behind the attacks is. More importantly, they know how the attacks are chained together, and what the driving force or ultimate goal is.
For example, the aforementioned tactic of disrupting data to fuel distrust in companies is a tactic that most companies won’t realize is happening until it’s too late.
HackerOne is a growing platform with approximately 300,000 white hat hackers on their side. And even people with high-end positions in this organization say that while hiring white hat hackers is also a great way of defending your assets, sometimes ex-criminals are a good investment despite their baggage.
This is because there’s a great deal of value in understanding a hacker’s way of thinking, and operations. They have a deep understanding of how these attackers abuse certain vulnerabilities and functions that other people can’t identify.
Additionally, there’s a major difference between paying hackers who are openly involved in criminal work and hiring specialists who have chosen to use their talents and knowledge to improve security.
In conclusion, the main takeaway is that companies of all shapes and sizes, and even individuals absolutely should be aware of these threats. And if you weren’t afraid of these attacks earlier, it’s time to start now and become proactive by taking extreme safety measures.
These include hiring experts, creating a structure for your security, educating yourself and your employees, and investing in a better cybersecurity program for your company.
With this, you can ensure that you have everything you need in order to presume, identify, and protect yourself from attacks. Additionally, these tools are also needed for recovery after any attack that can occur, which is also a crucial factor when it comes to preparing for these crimes.
Today, implementing a cybersecurity strategy in your everyday life and your company should be an act just as normal as locking the door before going to sleep, and activating the alarm when leaving the house.