Consumers vulnerable from cyber-attacks in 2014

| 20 January 2014

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We live in a digital age where it has become the norm to share your information. Digital parameters have been pushed to a point where consumers are more trusting with their information online. Or could it perhaps be that because our boundaries have been eroded, we’ve become almost immune to the consequences of a digital breach?

We live in digital age where we have dozens of devices connected to our home networks. These aren’t just computers; they range from medical devices to home theatre systems, and even vacuum cleaners and fridges.

I look at my online patterns for example. In the past 24 months I have shared so much information about myself with so many different online merchants, loyalty plans, and social networks. But I am worried about my information.

As we start 2014 off, news is filtering through of several significant cyber-attacks that have taken place over the festive season. One of the scariest ones was launched by a 17-year-old Russian teenager. He used malicious malware to attack the well know US retailer Target, and managed to gain access to over 100 million credit and debit cards. Other retailers like Nieman Marcus also suffered similar attacks. I suspect that this is only the tip of the iceberg, and in the coming weeks we will hear more of other such attacks.

Retailers are incredibly vulnerable at the moment. The Financial Times recently reported on research done by security firm Bitsight that more than 40 percent of Fortune 200 retailers are vulnerable to similar attacks.

Cisco’s annual security report for 2013 shows that attacks increased 14 percent year-over-year from 2012. This year the most vulnerable industries that have been identified include:

  • Pharmaceutical
  • Chemical
  • Electronics
  • Agriculture
  • Mining
  • Gas
  • Oil
  • Energy

As The Internet of Things evolves this decade, Gartner predicts that more than 20 billion devices will be connected by 2020. That’s 20 billion more ways that hackers can get to your personal information. There have been many concerns raised about the security of these connected devices. Just last week security provider Proofpoint uncovered the first proven Internet of Things attack. The cyber-attack involved a fridge and other every day consumer gadgets that you would find in the home. The robot-like botnet attack lasted a few days, and more than 750 000 emails had been sent before the cyber-attack was discovered. These kinds of attacks are set to intensify as consumers add more devices to their home networks. Experts have called for regulation and some kind of standard to prevent future attacks. It is frightening to thing what kind of access hackers may have to your personal and sensitive information in your home.

We are moving into an ultra-connected world. A world in which we feel comfortable enough to store our credit card details with online merchants to make purchases seamless. Hackers are having a field day in stealing this information.

Have privacy boundaries been pushed to a point of no return? Perhaps… but I think we are at a tipping point where netizens (citizens of the Internet) are fed up with their personal information being violated.

Start the year off by doing an audit of every device connected in your home and business. Tick of the security basics to avoid any kind of attack.


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