The year 2020 has kept our mind occupied with a different type of safety, on account of a global pandemic of epic proportions. It will still take a while before things can get back to the way they were, but the processes have already begun. Unfortunately, safety from the novel coronavirus was not the only thing that loomed as a threat this year. Due to the extreme increase in online activities across the globe, cybercriminals have had a field day as well.
Effect of the Coronavirus on Cybersafety
Remote office work, video calls, video meetings, and adoption of new technology was the only way for both businesses and their employees to survive the quarantine periods. Even now, not much has changed, but due to the economic unsustainability of prolonged lockdowns, things have improved from a business standpoint. Keep in mind that the lifting of quarantines came at the cost of boosted infection rates all across the UK, but not every industry or company has taken that road yet.
Most companies in the UK that can operate with a skeleton crew in office, with the bulk of its crew connected remotely, are still doing so. In light of the previous extreme situations, as well as the ongoing web-dependent nature of business in 2020, cybersecurity was and still is a profound issue. In fact, these issues will continue to be prevalent in 2021 as well, unless measures are taken to eradicate or mitigate them, as best as possible. Taking a look at the main differences in how business is being threatened now, versus how it was threatened before, should help us get a better idea.
- An extreme overload of user pressure resulted in multiple major servers going down during the initial stages of lockdown
- As the protected servers were overloaded with genuine traffic, it became increasingly difficult to notice fraudulent traffic
- Multiple major and minor service providers were compromised because they had to initiate untested and minimally protected measures to maintain serviceability
- People who had hardly ever used the internet before had to and still must rely on it for work
- They became easy targets for hackers, given that they had little to no idea about modern, internet scams, bots, and malicious software
- Companies that maintained a secured, private environment could not keep it as secure anymore since employees were now working from their own devices and web connections
- Hackers found it easier to intercept unprotected or minimally protected devices and connections that the employees were using from their home location
- Resources were spread thin and cybersecurity took a backseat for smaller companies, during early – mid-2020
- The relative gap in online security was exploited by opportune cybercriminal organizations
The implications and effects of the resulting breaches have not yet been seen in their entirety. More will be revealed as the hacked data begins to make itself felt in the coming months and years.
Personal Safety at Risk on the Web
The need to protect personal safety online is now more profound than it was before the pandemic. Going into 2021 without the proper knowledge and understanding of all the necessary steps for ensuring online safety is not an option. From a personal perspective, here are a few key factors that will continue to make the internet a relatively dangerous place for even individuals in 2021.
- Remote work, high unemployment rates, and the real fear of contracting Covid-19 will keep people on the internet a lot more than usual
- Statistically, the more we use the internet, the higher are the chances of personal/financial/work-related data becoming compromised, be it from a live hacking attempt, or just a random email link
- Cybercriminals have a lot more to gain by hacking an employee’s work account now, as it can become a chink in the employer’s protective barrier
- People who have no idea about cyberthreats and their implications, are now using the web for work and/or entertainment
- Personal smartphones are often left unprotected, and yet, the average citizen accesses the internet via their phone far more often than they do from their computers
- Old, unused email accounts and other site accounts with poor password protection are the most likely to be hacked now for malicious purposes
This is just a small introduction to the multiple threats that will continue to loom over anyone and everyone in 2021. Not that these are new developments, but their severity has certainly become more intense now than they were before.
What Measures Can the Average Citizen Take Against Cyberthreats Now?
Awareness is the first step of course, but it’s not a solution. For example, we now know that unused accounts or old email addresses that are not used anymore could be compromised quite easily by black hats. Therefore, it is essential to close unused accounts and delete old emails as soon as possible. Yahoo admitted many years back that all their email IDs and associated user information was hacked multiple times, exposing over three billion accounts. At this point, holding onto the Yahoo email ID might compromise your online safety even more.
Setapp suggests that people should think about whether it would be better if they were to delete yahoo email account information from the net. To this end, the site has provided a useful guide. Settapp offers a useful suite of cross-platform apps for increased productivity – you can sign up for a free trial.
Other than securing or deleting old accounts, we must also:
- Minimize the number of devices through which we conduct sensitive financial/personal transactions/interactions
- Educate ourselves about common cyberthreats such as phishing, malicious email attachments, unsecured Wi-Fi networks, etc.
- Choose a renowned provider for complete protection against cyber threats (antimalware, anti-phishing, antitracking, firewall, VPN, etc.)
- Update the software resources across all devices regularly, including the Wi-Fi router’s firmware
- Prevent unauthorized and unsecured USB connections
Cybersafety is difficult to maintain for even multinational organizations, so no measure is going to be 100%. Nevertheless, just by keeping the basics of cybersecurity covered well, even the average citizen without intricate knowledge regarding cybersafety can keep themselves, their family, and even their company safer now and in the future.