It seems like almost everything we do in life now has an online component. Experts say that the “new normal” in the next couple years will even increase online requirements and will present some big challenges. Many have said that we live in the golden age of technology and comfort, with almost limitless information available to us on our phones. As technology continues to improve our lives, it also opens the door to different types of challenges and threats. Some of the easily recognized challenges are that people who are less tech savvy may fall behind those who are highly connected, potentially worsening their economic or healthcare status. While information is at an all-time high, misinformation placed by nation states, criminals, and others are sweeping public opinion in one way or another. This year during the 2023 World Economic Forum many leaders are worried that the current geopolitical unrest will set in place a catastrophic cyberattack within the next two years. Meanwhile, cyber threats are constantly evolving, and large-scale cyber attacks can and do occur. Cyber attackers may target various entities, including governments, organizations, businesses, and individuals, with different motives such as financial gain, political motivations, or disruption of services. The level of cyber threat can vary depending on factors such as the sophistication of attackers, the state of cybersecurity measures in place, and emerging vulnerabilities in software, systems, or networks.
Organizations and individuals should always remain vigilant and take proactive measures to protect their systems, data, and online presence from cyber threats. This includes implementing strong cybersecurity practices, staying informed about the latest threats and best practices, keeping software and systems up-to-date with security patches, using strong and unique passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, being cautious of suspicious emails or messages, and regularly backing up important data.
It's also important to note that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, and governments, organizations, and individuals need to work together to combat cyber threats through collaborative efforts, information sharing, and robust cybersecurity measures. If you suspect that you are a victim of a cyber attack or encounter any suspicious activity online, it's essential to report it to the appropriate authorities or seek professional help from a trusted cybersecurity expert. Here in Southeast Utah, victims should report the offense to local law enforcement, where a case will be opened. Where cyber crimes often cross state lines, it may be beneficial to also report it to the FBI’s internet crime complaint center (IC3): https://www.ic3.gov/Home/ComplaintChoice/default.aspx/.
Preparing for a cyber attack is essential in today's interconnected world where cyber threats are prevalent. Here are some steps an average person can take to prepare for a cyber attack:
Keep your software up-to-date: Regularly update your operating system, web browsers, antivirus software, and other software on your devices. These updates often include security patches that address known vulnerabilities.
Use strong, unique passwords: Use complex and unique passwords for all your online accounts, and avoid using common passwords or easily guessable information like your birthdate or pet's name. Use a password manager to securely store and manage your passwords.
Enable two-factor authentication (2FA): Enable 2FA whenever possible for your online accounts. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of verification, such as a fingerprint or a one-time code sent to your mobile device.
Be cautious of phishing attacks: Be wary of suspicious emails, text messages, or phone calls that ask for personal information or contain links or attachments. Avoid clicking on unknown links or downloading attachments from suspicious sources.
Regularly back up your data: Back up your important data regularly to an external hard drive or a cloud storage service. This helps you to quickly recover your data in case of a cyber attack or data loss.
Educate yourself about cybersecurity: Stay informed about the latest cybersecurity threats and best practices through reputable sources, such as government agencies or cybersecurity organizations. Educate yourself about common cyber attack techniques, such as phishing, malware, ransomware, and social engineering.
Short-term effects of a cyber attack can include financial loss, data loss, identity theft, and disruption of online services. Long-term effects can include reputational damage, loss of trust, and financial or legal consequences. Cyber attacks can also have psychological and emotional impacts, such as stress, anxiety, and a sense of violation of privacy.
In addition to the above steps, it's important for all of us to have a plan in place to respond to a cyber attack if it does occur. This may include knowing who to contact at our local law enforcement or the FBI (as mentioned above), and having a plan to mitigate the impacts and recover from the attack. Seeking professional help from a cybersecurity expert or a trusted IT professional can also be beneficial in preparing for a cyber attack and managing its aftermath.