By Tom Kelly
Just weeks before Russian troops entered Ukraine in late February, a wave of malicious cyber activities targeted Ukraine’s government and critical infrastructure in the country. These activities included the deployment of new disk-wiping malware, distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks, and other tools tied to the Russian military and government.
As the U.S. and our allies impose sanctions and other penalties on Russia, there are growing concerns about retaliatory and spillover cyberattacks that could place government agencies, companies and individuals at risk right here in the U.S. A recent and sharp increase in phishing attacks out of Russia was reported just days after the invasion; some of those email-borne attacks targeted manufacturing firms and international shipping companies in the U.S. and Europe.
We have seen the damage that cyberattacks out of Russia can inflict on American organizations. The SolarWinds attack in 2020 was a wake-up call that Russia remains a looming cyber threat. But these attacks don’t just threaten the government and businesses; they can be just as damaging to individuals too.
We all use our phones, social media platforms, smartphone apps and other services every day to share personal and often sensitive information. And increasingly, we are using those services across both our home and enterprise networks. That means an attack not only places your information at risk but your employer’s information too.
You don’t have to give up your privacy and security in order to use the digital products and services you love. But we all need to be more aware of the risk that malicious actors, and not just those in Russia, pose to our collective cybersecurity.
Individuals and businesses can take charge when it comes to protecting their information and data privacy. The threat of a cyberattack has never been higher; but a handful of proactive measures can help you better protect yourself and counter such an attack. These are my three tips for individuals and businesses.
1) Reduce the Number of Attack Vectors
While digital technology companies can do a lot more to make their products and services more secure, individual behavior is ultimately key to protecting against attacks. And that’s because almost all cybersecurity breaches are the result of human error. But you can take certain steps to reduce the number of attack vectors and entry points for bad actors to exploit.
For most home and enterprise systems, using multi-factor authentication for devices and creating strong password types for accounts can make all the difference when it comes to protecting your information. In order to provide your system the best possible protection against a breach or attack, individuals and businesses should also consider setting up firewalls in their networks and using a virtual private network (VPN) for secure communications across digital channels.
These security protocols may appear cumbersome and unnecessary; but they are simple measures that can go a long way in preventing malicious actors from breaching your system.
2) Have an Offline Storage Option
In recent years, cloud storage has become more popular among businesses and households as a way to securely store data. But fully relying on the cloud as a data security solution may not be the best idea. It’s a lot like giving your neighbor the keys to your home; you have to trust them.
Having an offline backup or removable storage option adds an additional layer of security to protect your data. It keeps data away from your network; in order to access stored data, you have to use a manual device like a flash drive or hard drive.
According to the Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report 2021, data lost to cyberattacks cost businesses around two billion dollars. With the threat of cyberattacks on the rise, having an offline copy of your data could make all the difference for your home or business.
3) Keep Your Data Close To You
The largest services on the Internet today, from search engines like Google to social media platforms like Facebook, are constantly harvesting user data. In other words, the websites and apps we use every day have collected all kinds of information about us.
It’s a potential goldmine for hackers and other malicious actors looking to scrape servers and steal your personal data. In just the last two years, major data breaches have targeted large companies like Facebook and T-Mobile, compromising the information of tens of millions of their customers.
You have to be conscious about your personal information while surfing the Internet or scrolling through your favorite apps. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to keep your data close to you. That includes changing privacy options on your personal devices and removing risk factors, such as geo-location setting and information sharing agreements, and even just reading a platform’s privacy guidelines.
While the war in Eastern Europe might seem a world away, our cyberspace is becoming a frontline of its own and the risk to your personal information is closer than you think. But with these simple tips, you can build a shield around the digital systems in your home or business and better protect your data from cyber threats.
Tom Kelly is the president and CEO of IDX, a
provider of identity protection and privacy
services such as IDX privacy. He is a Silicon
Valley serial entrepreneur and an expert in