Online IT security threats will continue to grow significantly in 2017 as hacking and scamming sources increase investment in technology and in training criminals and cyber-terrorists. So who are these hackers?
Hackers with hats
Articles on Internet security often refer to hackers by a ‘hat’ colour;
· White Hat: These are the good guys – they are ‘ethical’ hackers who focus their efforts on trying to break security systems to improve them.
· Black hat: The opposite of the above. These are the bad guys, intent on violating system security for malicious reasons or personal gain
· Grey Hat: A mix of the above two. These hackers will try to illegally break system security but not necessarily for personal gain. However, these hackers often contact the target of the breech and offer to ‘fix’ the problem for a fee. Some even publish details of their successful hacks.
The BIG boys
Billions of pounds are lost every year to hackers and scammers. Not surprisingly this has attracted the interest of much larger groups.
· Hacktivists: This group include cyberterrorists, an area of particular concern to the modern world. They target systems for purposes of furthering religious, political or ideological beliefs and ideas.
· Organised Crime: Make no mistake, the huge sums that can be exploited from individuals and businesses has drawn the attention of international crime gangs that share information and invest heavily in their own IT systems and hacking tools and skills.
· Governments: The threat of the above groups, plus the chance of carrying out their own cyber-espionage has forced heavy funding in cyberwarfare and prevention by all governments.
The Internet of Things
You’ll hear this term a lot as we move into 2017 and beyond. This is a term that came into being due to the number of devices that now connect to the Internet other than the usual PCs, tablets and Smartphones. Technology is moving into the home in a big way. ‘Smart’ devices such as TVs, set top boxes (e.g. Freeview), printers, fridges, heating systems, light bulbs, electricity meters etc. More and more of our everyday devices are beginning to have integral Internet connectivity.
Hackers are rubbing their hands in glee over this as many of these devices do not allow for regular security updates as on PCs, tablets and Smartphones, as a result they can be more readily exploited to spread viruses and hack networks.
What should I do about it?
For many of the modern day threats we are in the hands of our service providers for protection, however, at an individual level we should ensure that we install and maintain Internet Security software and be cautious when using emails and visiting new web sites. I would also recommend at least two sets of back ups. The first on a regular basis to a connected device, such as a disk drive or cloud (Internet) backup option. The second to a device, such as an external disk, that can be disconnected from the system after the backup.
This latter tip is due to a new wave of ransomware virus that searches for all data including any connected backup device and any active cloud (Internet) backup. Ransomware attempts to extort money from the target by encrypting any data found and demanding payment to provide a code to allow decryption.