The 3 Biggest Security Threats Of 2016

January 18, 2016 by  

The 3 Biggest Security Threats Of 2016
, Statistics like this can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, most of the threats break down into a few categories that you can guard against. Today, I’m going to take a look at what are shaping up to be the biggest threats you’ll need to worry about in 2016, and give you some tips for how to stay safe.

1. Data breaches

OK, this threat isn’t a new one. In fact, it’s been at the top of everyone’s watch list since the massive Target breach at the end of 2013, which exposed information on up to 110 million customers. However, the nature of this threat is going to be shifting in 2016.

Breaches at major retailers where hackers steal payment information are going to continue for the foreseeable future. Hotels are the target of choice at the moment with Hilton, Starwood and others experiencing attacks in 2015. However, as more retailers switch to point-of-sale terminals that work with the EMV chips in the latest credit and debit cards, and people start using mobile payment systems, hackers should move on to easier targets.

The growing worry for 2016 is medical data breaches. In 2015, more than 100 million patient records were exposed, with the majority coming from the Anthem Insurance hack earlier in the year. That trend is going to continue as hospitals, insurance providers and other medical services struggle to get a handle on digital security. To be fair, it’s a problem they’ve never had to deal with before, but that’s small comfort when your medical records are being sold on the black market.

Speaking of the black market, another reason hackers are going to focus on medical information is money. The black market is flooded with stolen financial and personal information, which means your identity is selling for a few bucks, if even that.

Medical information is in shorter supply, so hackers can sell it for more. Plus, most people now know to keep an eye on their credit and bank statements for signs of fraud. However, few people keep an eye on their medical insurance, which means that hackers can get more use out of your information before they’re discovered.

Besides medical data breaches, you’re going to see breaches in other industries you wouldn’t expect to find them, such as the toy industry. For example, a recent breach at VTech, a toy manufacturer, compromised information on more than 6 million children, including their names, addresses and even photos. A data breach at Hello Kitty exposed information on 3.3 million users.

Newer high-tech toys that store information about kids and interact with them, like “Hello Barbie,” could reveal a lot to hackers. So, before you buy a high-tech toy or let your child use an online site, see what information it asks for that could be stolen one day.

2. Ransomware

Just like data breaches, ransomware isn’t a new thing. It’s been a serious concern since a virus called CryptoLocker arrived at the end of 2013. However, it is still a serious threat and getting worse every year, especially since hackers can now get it for free to modify as creatively as they want.

As you probably know, ransomware encrypts your files so you can’t open them, and the only way to get them back is to pay a ransom. Even the FBI is advising victims to pay if they want their files back.

Ransomware isn’t just a worry for individual computers. It can lock up files on a network, which means one infection can bring down an entire company. It’s also possible to get it on smartphones and tablets via a malicious text, email or app.

Fortunately, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Ransomware still needs your help to install. If you avoid falling for phishing emails with malicious links or downloads, such as this tricky one, you can keep ransomware off your machine.

You can also take the precaution of backing up your computer files regularly. That way, if your files do get locked, you can wipe your drive and restore your files.

3. Browser plug-ins

Britain’s Ofcom recently found that adults spend an average of 20 hours a week online, and most of that time is spent in a Web browser. So it’s no surprise that’s where hackers are focusing their efforts. If they can find a flaw in your browser, then they just need you to visit a malicious website to slip a virus on to your system.

2015 saw hackers target a number of browser weaknesses, but by far the worst was Adobe Flash, or Adobe Animate as it’s now being called. There were times it seemed to have an endless string of emergency patches, with at least three instances in July and four instances between the end of September and the beginning of November.

Firefox even blocked Flash for a time in July to keep people safe. Because many online ads use Flash, even legitimate sites could infect a computer if hackers got an ad network to run a malicious ad.

While companies are quickly moving away from Flash/Animate, Facebook for example just switched its video player to HTML5, Flash/Animate isn’t going anywhere for a while. In fact, just like Java, which was the security nightmare before it, Flash/Animate could hang around on computers for years after people no longer need it.

You can expect to see plenty more attacks against it this year. And hackers are probably already probing for the next big hole in browser security. Don’t wait. Learn five steps to making your browser hacker proof.

Keep an eye out

There are always new threats out there, and even we don’t know which ones will suddenly explode. One to keep an eye on is bootkits. These are incredibly hard viruses to detect and remove, and they’ve started showing up in hacker toolkits.

Fortunately, right now they’re delivered the same way as any other virus: phishing emails, malicious downloads, etc. As long as you pay attention to what you click, you should be OK.

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