2020 and Cyberattacks

Whilst 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered as the year of Covid-19, it will also go down in history because of the explosion of cyber-attacks, with no sector of society or industry safe from the hackers.

In part, one led to the other.

The pandemic hastened the digital revolution, with many businesses and social interactions forced to go online because of government lockdowns and the need to maintain social distancing.

There have been definite benefits – many have discovered that they can work at home successfully, and the environment has benefitted because of the reduction in carbon emissions because of the reduced amount of traffic on roads.

And some sector of the economy have boomed, such as the major e-commerce retailers like Amazon or online casinos -such as casinolist.ca as outlined here. However, at the same time, the sheer volume of online transactions has presented opportunities to the crooked and unscrupulous like never before.

In terms of statistics, more than 80% of firms surveyed reported an increase in cyberattacks in 2020, with an 800% on phishing attacks – the practice of sending fraudulent communications that appear to come from a reputable source – since February.

Meanwhile the average ransomware payment rose 33% compared to 2019 to US $111,605.

Social media platforms proved particularly vulnerable, with 235 million users of Instagram, YouTube and Twitter seeing their profile data exposed when a database containing their personal details was hacked and exposed in the summer. Meanwhile, Twitter was subject to a coordinated phishing attack that led to the accounts of high profile figures like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos being compromised in a Bitcoin scam.

And there were red faces all round when the attacker was revealed to be a 17-year-old from Florida who was looking to sell their Twitter handles to the highest bidder.

2020 also saw the first death that can be directly related to a cyber- attack. It occurred in Germany In September when the University Hospital in Düsseldorf was subject to a ransomware attack. This resulted in an IT system failure and, in the resulting confusion, a patient who was in the process of being transported to a different hospital died.

The matter, which is being treated as a homicide by the German authorities, is still being investigated.

These examples show that no individual or company, no matter their size, is safe from predatory attacks.

They underline the need to adopt sound security policies and robust user measures. It means regularly updating and strengthening passwords, storing them in a secure location and avoiding the use of obvious codes – names, sequential numbers, names of favourite pets etc. – that can easily be broken or guessed. It also means regularly backing up work and storing it offline, in the cloud or in some form of digital storage.

In addition, keep systems, software, and apps up to date with the latest security patches.

At the corporate level, companies should ensure that employees do not share passwords, that email domain authentication protocols are adopted and, that, where possible multi-factor authentication is used to maintain privacy and security.

The sad fact of life, however, is that nearly everybody may be subject to some form of cyber attack either at home or in their working lives. Whilst adopting robust measures may not prevent this, it can mitigate the effects.

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