The cybersecurity landscape is changing fast.
In an internal lecture held at the beginning of the year, Emir Peštelić, HTEC Group’s Senior SOC Analyst, stated that 2023 will be a game-changer for cybersecurity. In his opinion, the confluence of different technological advances in areas such as AI, quantum computing, robotics, and beyond will create new digital security challenges and dramatically expand and increase the risks of various cyber threats.
As more and more daily aspects of our lives – shopping, socialization, entertainment, and various other logistics of everyday life – shift from the physical world into the digital realm, they are inevitably accompanied by malicious entities looking to capture and exploit our digital footprint. The consequences of cyberattacks can be dire both for individuals and organizations, resulting in financial losses, leaks of sensitive information, damage to reputation, and many other negative outcomes.
With security constantly scrambling to catch up with technology and cybercriminals growing more sophisticated by the day, it is becoming increasingly apparent that traditional means of digital security are becoming obsolete and that we must reassess and redefine our protection philosophy.
The digital lifestyle of today
What was already an irreversible trend of adopting digital means was only accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. From remote work to online shopping and beyond, we have seen a mass-scale transition to digital tools and services take place virtually overnight. Add to this the continuing rise of connected devices, from self-driving cars to voice assistants to various IoT systems, and the digital component of our existence grows even wider in scope.
In today’s information-based society, we are all living the digital lifestyle. Engaging with technology and sharing digital information has become a necessity for many relevant aspects of modern life and a great convenience for many others. We are all digital to a certain extent, and thus at risk of cybercrime.
The hectic pace of innovation and integration of technology into everyday life finds many users unprepared and underinformed about the countless cyber threats lurking in the virtual world. While the pre-internet generations are most at risk, the ever-changing field of play requires us all to be alert and vigilant about safely navigating digital space.
Between the information we store on our devices and the information we share across a wide range of digital services, we are constantly at risk of sensitive data falling into the wrong hands.
Hackers and cybercriminals remain as vigilant as ever, attacking both individuals and enterprises with a broad arsenal of techniques. Some of the most common types of cyberattacks are:
- Malware (ransomware)
Any kind of malicious software designed to harm a computer, network, or a server. Malware enters a system when a user clicks on a dangerous link or an attachment. Once inside, malware can cause different kinds of damage, from making the system inoperable to blocking off its key components, obtaining private information and encrypting user data.
Communication under false pretenses designed to entice the target to share sensitive information or install malware.
- Denial-of-service (DoS)
A cyberattack designed to disrupt business operations by flooding the server, network, or system with traffic.
A type of cyberattack where the attackers insert themselves into two-way communication (most commonly via unsecure Wi-Fi networks or malware) to eavesdrop and steal data.
- Zero-day exploit
Exploiting a network vulnerability between the time it is exposed and the time the vulnerability is fixed.
- Code injection
Injecting malicious code into a network or a computer to make changes in its operations. The most common type is SQL injection, which targets SQL-based servers and extracts database information to alter, steal, or erase data.
- IoT-based attacks
Attacks targeting Internet of Things networks and devices to assume control over them or steal information.
While these are the most common types of cyberattacks, they represent only a small sample size of a long list of techniques that expands by the day, growing smarter and more sophisticated.
Re-thinking the protection philosophy
According to Emir Peštelić, the days of taking a passive role with cyber security are long gone. Traditional means of protection such as antivirus software are growing increasingly ineffiecient in the face of both the interconnected nature of our digital lifestyle and modern tools that the cyber attackers use.
There is a quote from poet Khalil Gibran that I like to use – “If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.“ Statistics show that about 98% of successful cyberattacks have some sort of a social engineering component. In other words, it is usually human error that enables an attack. In today’s world, we must recognize that our lives run on data, and the protection of that data is paramount. While various digital service providers are responsible for protecting the data we share with them, we cannot rely solely on them for our protection. It must start with us actively considering the way we manage our digital footprint. – Emir Peštelić, Senior Security Operations Center Analyst at HTEC Group
To address the variety of cyber threats all of us are exposed to in the digital sphere, Emir suggests that we should develop and adopt our own philosophical approach to security and protection. This philosophy should be built on the following principles:
- Define importance: identify critical areas of your digital existence (e.g., relevant login information) and consider how well it is protected
- Identify weak points: recognize vulnerable areas and increase protection measures
- Develop incident recovery plans: define action steps for a security breach scenario (e.g., having a secure email account to which you can send a password reset request)
- Limit the digital footprint: consider and decrease the amount of personal information we post online
- Implement protection measures: use available resources to fortify your protections (i.e., 2FA/MFA, VPN, anti-malware software, etc.)
- Stay informed: keep up to date with the latest technology, monitor major global data breaches, and keep an eye out for new cyberattack techniques
- Be diligent: perform periodical checks of your activities
Chain of protection
Arising from our digital protection philosophy should be a set of actions and practices forming a comprehensive chain of protection to prevent and respond to being exposed to cyberattacks. Emir Peštelić highlights the most important protection steps that serve as the foundation of digital security.
- Zero trust
The traditional approach to cybersecurity relies on barriers (firewalls, passwords, network control, etc.). Zero trust, on the other hand, assumes that there are no barriers and that the system will be breached no matter which barrier is implemented.
- Secure, complex passwords
Weak, easy-to-remember passwords remain one of the easiest access routes to the users’ personal accounts. Random long combinations of letters, numbers, and signs for passwords are a simple, yet effective first line of defense.
Yes, alerts about unusual or unfamiliar account activity can be annoying, but it is important that we don’t ignore them or mark them as spam, and instead implement them where available and consider them carefully.
- Multi-factor authentication
Practically all relevant digital services provide 2-factor authentication controls, requiring an additional one-time password provided to a different device defined by the user. Activating this option provides an added layer of protection with minimal time investment.
- Traffic encryption
End-to-end encryption offered by a VPN is the most effective way of securing data exchanged between a device and the internet, thus limiting opportunities for hackers and marketers to obtain personal data.
- Sharing information
We should always think twice before we post anything online or share information in emails. Our online posts can be seen by anyone, and sharing personal information with others we do not know personally is one of the biggest online risks.
- Protection tools
Don’t limit yourself to antivirus software – there are many different tools designed to protect our information, conceal our digital footprint, and check whether we have compromised. Make the most of them!
The digital world is growing more complex by the day. While more and more digital services bring benefits that more and more users reap, security should always be the topmost concern for users. Digital threats are many and diverse, but we can prevent and eliminate most of them by defining a sound set of principles for protection in the digital space.
HTEC Group is dedicated to crafting digital solutions that are safe and reliable, utilizing the highest security standards. Our experts work with our clients to provide digital solutions and experiences that provide the maximum degree of safety and protection for the user.
Learn more about our cybersecurity capabilities.