It is a fact that everyone should learn more about cybersecurity and get acquainted with several concepts therein to bolster collective privacy and safety to levels that are deemed satisfactory in today’s cyber-risk era. There is ample evidence out there that suggests cybersecurity knowledge is becoming a requisite for all of us, not least of which is that the world’s largest insurance companies are warning the world of unprecedented cyber-risks that could affect us all from this point forward. Other statements from these insurance companies, like German giant Allianz, say that cyber-risks have overtaken other common risks such as natural disasters, disease, and war to take the number one spot on the global risk list. If that does not make it evident enough, surely the fact that cybercrime is flourishing and software vulnerabilities are at an all-time high drive the point home. No longer is cybersecurity reserved for “IT geeks” in the back rooms of technical departments, but it is something we all need to think about if we interact with a digital device of some sort. It is not just about device security that cyber-risks put at risk, but our fundamental life systems such as critical infrastructure too.
For these reasons, it is key to first of all understand what cyber risk is and then delve into the importance of cybersecurity today in general. Before we get into that, note that the link at the top covers internet safety in quite a bit of depth.
What is cyber risk?
According to the world’s largest insurance company Allianz which also insures a large portion of the largest tech companies out there, cyber risk is a major threat to clients’ businesses today. Organizations increasingly face new exposures including first and third-party damage, business interruption (BI) as well as regulatory consequences. However, what exactly is cyber risk anyway? Cyber-risk defines risks that concern cyberspace and digital systems, meaning risks related to internet usage and the compromise of computers, smart devices, servers, and any related systems. These risks mainly address cybercrime (cyberattacks) and the cyberweapons and hackers (threat actors) that facilitate these attacks. Going more in-depth, this means cyberattacks that involve ransomware and socially engineered phishing scams, for instance, and the fact that such threats are severely underestimated by businesses worldwide that utilize digital systems and store their data digitally.
In a digitally transformed industry, the risk of a cyberattack can mean several things such as the theft of data, the destruction of data, and data being taken for ransom. Such scenarios can bring the world’s largest organizations down in a matter of minutes. The worst scenario here is that an entire nation’s defenses can be brought to their knees.
Cyber risk does not only threaten infrastructure and national security but the average citizen as well. It is estimated that there is a ransomware or phishing attack taking place every few seconds somewhere in the world. Such is the frequency of scams and cyber attacks, where threat actors and scammers are looking for the quickest way to make a profit by exploiting others or exploiting vulnerabilities in digital systems. Because of this, an entire industry known as the cybersecurity sector exists today, where thousands of specialists work around the clock to develop solutions to defend against and attempt to resolve these risks.
Cybersecurity companies have several ways of helping the economy prepare for a cyberattack, and on a more granular level cybersecurity awareness helps us regular citizens steer clear of cyber risks by teaching us how to employ internet safety best practices and securing small-to-medium businesses ( SMBs), for example.
Why is Cybersecurity so Important Today?
No matter if you are part of a big conglomerate, run a single-person business, or are just a regular citizen who uses a laptop and a smartphone (or any other device) to work remotely at a coffee shop, cybersecurity is equally as important in all cases. Cybercrime and online scams can compromise all of us. Also, it is a misconception that you are not important enough to be hacked or “scammed. According to official statistics, malicious data breaches resulted in almost 40 billion sensitive records being exposed in 2020. Meanwhile, malicious software (malware), ransomware attacks, DDoS attack, phishing scams, and more all peaked during the worst part of the pandemic, particularly exploiting a remote workforce and unattended systems. Cybercrime costs organizations worldwide about $3 million every minute, amounting to trillions of dollars in damage already dealt. The fact that we are digitally transforming our data is a great convenience for everyone but is a double-edged sword because it puts that data at great cyber risk. At a higher level, financial institutions and healthcare institutions have been the target of ransomware and phishing attacks these past two years. Not only that but critical infrastructures like the energy sector and academic institutions, even city power and water grids, have been targeted by threat actors.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?
Coming down to a level that affects regular people, there are internet best practices and cybersecurity tools that can immensely support everyone’s basic digital safety. Hundreds of millions of people all over the world are already learning these facets of cybersecurity, while many others are still unaware and oblivious to the concept. Because of this, here is a list of general cybersecurity best practices that everyone should apply;
- Good password security across all systems and devices
- The usage of VPNs, antimalware suites, and antivirus suites
- Properly updating and configuring all systems and devices
- Learning not to overshare data on social media
- Understanding router cybersecurity and other hardware cybersecurity
- Understanding the proper backing up of data
While large organizations have the resources to employ expensive third-party security teams and security solutions to lower their cyber risk, the above list applies to the consumer-level individual. Addressing access security such as applying password hygiene, keeping devices updated, and making use of cybersecurity tools such as Virtual Private Networks and antimalware/antivirus programs is a good starting point for all. Perhaps even more importantly, understanding that data backups can save your life will further boost your cyber security.