Level 3 Communications

Chris Richter

Hacking Is Here to Stay: 6 Steps to Protect Yourself

We hear a lot about hacking these days, but in fact, hacking is nothing new. Even long before computers existed, people have tried to hack things. The public became aware of hacking as early as 1903, when Marconi’s wireless telegraph was hacked just as the technology’s capabilities were about to be demonstrated to a large crowd gathered at London’s Royal Institution.

Today, hacking has evolved into a wide-ranging web of cybercrime that is hard to avoid, with perpetrators carrying out their misdeeds for a variety of motives – selling data for profit, hacktivism, stealing state secrets, and revenge against former employers or enemies. But make no mistake, the prime motive is profit. The cost of cybercrime will top $2 trillion by 2019, according to Juniper Research.

The expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT), and its potential to connect every device that can be connected, creates even more opportunities for hackers. We’ve already seen hacks involving WiFi-connected insulin injectors, automobiles, baby monitors and webcams. The massive Oct. 21 DDoS (distributed denial of service) against DNS provider Dyn used hundreds of thousands of connected devices, including webcams, to block access to a host of popular websites, including Twitter, Netflix and the New York Times.

A Fact of Life

Hacking is a fact of life and it’s only going to become more widespread. The sooner we accept that, the better we can defend ourselves. Pretending it doesn’t exist, that it’s somebody else’s problem or some technical genius somewhere will come up with a silver bullet against cybercrime is unrealistic and dangerous.

Everyone has a responsibility to defend against cybercrime because it affects us all. With that in mind, here are six recommendations to protect against hackers and assorted cybercriminals:

  1. Be vigilant

Vigilance starts with awareness, so we all need to do our level best to learn the risks, their potential consequences, and how to avoid them. When it comes to logging on a WiFi network or a website, or connecting a new device at home or the office, follow this simple rule: Stop. Think. Connect. It’s the basis for a national cybersecurity campaign championed by the Department of Homeland Security encouraging everyone to be cyber-aware.

  1. Understand the problem

Hacking doesn’t occur just over the internet. Hackers employ all kinds of methods, including spreading viruses through thumb drives, employing social engineering to steal user credentials, phone scams, and phishing emails that bait users into clicking infected attachments or URLs. Even something as simple as wearing a company’s security badge in public can be exploited if a cybercriminal photographs and duplicates it to gain access to the company.

  1. Learn the risks

Many businesses invest in cybersecurity education for users, though some do a better job than others. But we all as individuals need to make an effort to bone up on current threats and how to avoid them. There are plenty of online resources that can help you stay current on the ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape.

  1. Shore up defenses

Antivirus (AV) software and scans aren’t enough to keep networks safe. Work with cybersecurity professionals to learn about the multiple layers of security required to keep personal and business data out of the hands of cybercriminals. Beyond AV, you also need firewalls, intrusion detection, actionable threat intelligence and analysis, and other tools. But technology alone is not the answer. To help keep you cyber-safe, these tools must be managed within a governance framework that includes a comprehensive risk management approach and a company-wide security awareness program.

  1. Report cybercrime

A lot of cybercrime goes unreported because businesses want to avoid embarrassment. However, in some cases they are mandated to disclose breaches by federal and state laws pertaining to data privacy. It’s a good idea to share information about successful and attempted cybercrimes with law enforcement because it provides them with more clues about attack origins, new vectors and vulnerabilities, and helps better prepare response and mitigation. Agencies such as the FBI are also on hand to assist businesses investigate and recover from data breaches.

  1. Situational awareness

Think of cybersecurity vigilance in terms of situational awareness while driving. Just as you must engage in defense driving on the road, you need to protect yourself against hackers when using computing devices. Remember hacking is here to stay, so be prepared.