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A series of stunning data breaches made worldwide waves this year and will continue to get worse in 2015, according to the latest McAfee Labs Threats Report.
The fact that our personal security will continue to be compromised in new and different ways isn’t even the most jarring takeaway from the latest predictions from McAfee Labs. It’s where the threats originate that matters most.
For the average user and business person, the biggest threat to cybersecurity isn’t lurking behind padlocked doors or in faraway computer crime operations. For most people, the greatest danger is much closer to home. It’s us. The users of technology.
“Attackers often zero in on the trust we place in our devices, using it against us,” the report says.
Hence 2014 will be remembered as “The Year of Shaken Trust." Which isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, since the report makes it clear we may be relying a little too much on technology that’s often more vulnerable than we realize. A recent study revealed that 70% of connected devices contained security exposures and 80% didn’t require passwords of sufficient complexity and length. Meanwhile, 110 million trusting Americans have had their personal data exposed in some form over the past year.
At Lenovo, we take your security very seriously. It’s why we make it easy to protect your system from the latest threats and maintain partnerships with industry leaders to do so.
Still, there are some threats we should all be aware of. Here are three important things to know as we head into 2015:
1. Security isn’t always a given.
Many users assume the latest products come packed with cutting-edge security, but that’s not always the case. As the Internet of Things brings new capabilities to more industries, software and hardware complexities often outpace the ability to protect against advanced cybercrime technology.
In other words, the avalanche of new, cool tech toys is being greeted by cybercriminals who are working hard to stay a step ahead. “Attacks on IoT devices will increase rapidly due to hypergrowth in the number of connected objects, poor security hygiene, and the high value of data on those devices,” the report says.
2. Risks are surfacing in unexpected places.
The dangers aren’t limited to connected cars and smart appliances. Advancements in manufacturing and farming also pose threats to privacy and security of both individuals and companies. And then there’s the healthcare industry, one of the most alarming targets of all, according to the report:
“Healthcare data is even more valuable than credit card data because stolen health credentials can go for…about 10 to 20 times the value of a U.S. credit card number.”
Scott Parks, an electronic medical records expert at eScribe, says he’s seeing this play out in standard healthcare documentation around the world.
“Health data is estimated to account for nearly 50% of all data breeches associated with identify theft,” Parks said. “The threats are as high as ever. Be smart about which facilities you go to for treatment and ask questions about the steps these practices take to ensure your confidential health information remains safe.”
3. No one is immune.
We’re all guilty of downloading a cool-sounding app from a trusted store and mindlessly clicking through installation buttons. Or quickly completing a credit card purchase after checking for “https” in the URL and choosing a reputable commercial brand.
It’s easy to get comfortable, if not careless, with transactions and interactions when it’s with an establishment that’s proven reliable in the past.
It’s our very dependability on these long-established Internet trust standards that will make them a target for attacks in 2015. The digital payment systems, mobile devices and even cloud storage services used by millions of people every day are all equally at risk. One particularly concerning likelihood is the growth of ransomware, which locks away personal files or data and requires payment from the victim to retrieve it.
According to McAfee, vulnerabilities like BERserk will continue to challenge our perceptions of trust and the security of sessions communicated over SSL.
Tips to Stay Safe
Short of avoiding all technology, it’s impossible to be completely immunized against security breaches. But there are steps you can take to minimize risks without becoming a Luddite. Here’s what McAfee recommends:
- Keep operating systems, applications and security software up to date (System Update will do this in the background)
- Mouse over hyperlinks to preview destinations before clicking
- Download only reputable apps with high reviews, and don’t grant app permission requests without inspecting them first
“The weakest links in most security setups are users,” the report claims. It’s important that we all remain vigilant.
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