GUEST ESSAY: Why cyber attacks represent a clear and present danger — and what you can do about it

As we begin a new year, cyber attacks may actually pose a more profound threat to mankind than the specter of nuclear warfare.

So says billionaire investor Warrant Buffet, and I tend to agree with him. Cyber attacks are growing in prominence every day – from influencing major elections to crippling businesses overnight, the role cyber warfare plays in our daily lives should not be underestimated.

Related article: Digital vulnerabilities on the rise in 2017

I’ve reviewed dozens of reports and surveys that support Mr. Buffet’s observation. Here is an assemblage of these stark proof point, along with my assessment of how they tie together:

Malware storm

Research from Panda Security informs us that some 230,000 new malware samples are produced every day — and this growth is predicted to only keep growing. Encryption services vendor Venafi estimates that 90 percent of hackers cover their tracks by using encryption, including VPN services. Keep in mind encryption is only one of many stealth techniques hackers use.

The result is it takes organizations roughly 200 days to detect a network breach, according to Arbor Networks. That’s more than six months! Many businesses have been breached and still have no idea, and as hackers get more sophisticated it will only take businesses even longer to realize that they have been compromised.

Consumers, SMBs victimized

Javelin Strategy & Research reports that some 6.5 percent of Americans have been victims of identity fraud — resulting in fraudsters scamming or outright stealing about $16 billion from ordinary citizens. Javelin’s study shows that victims of identity fraud in the U.S increased to 15.4 million in 2016, an increase of 2 million people from the previous year.


Meanwhile, small businesses are being intensively targeted. Data breaches reported by the likes of Equifax, Uber and Yahoo command headlines. But small and medium sized businesses are being just as exposed, if not more so. A report from consultancy Small Business Trends estimates that 43 percent of cyber attacks are aimed at SMBs.

Crippling damage

 From a macro view, the damage from cyber attacks is material and steadily growing. According to a study by Juniper Research, the average cost of a data breach will exceed $150 million by 2020 — and by 2019, cybercrime will cost businesses over $2 trillion — a four-fold increase from 2015. Those numbers are in line with a similar study by Microsoft. The software giant estimates the potential cost of cyber crime to the global community is a mind-boggling $500 billion, and a data breach will cost the average company about $3.8 million.

With cloud services and mobile computing continuing to expand, and the Internet of Things getting traction, it’s advisable for organizations of all sizes to considered increase the percentage of operations spending that goes towards security.

Preventative measure

These metrics are actually impacting individuals and companies in tangible ways. A clear majority of Americans  report being much more concerned about privacy than ever before, according to a survey from VPN supplier AnchorFree. This is understandable considering the number of high-profile cases of data abuse that have made the news in recent times.

One simple, way individuals and companies can better protect themselves is to consistently use a reliable VPN service. According to research from Comparitech, the number one reason why people use VPNs is to access the internet anonymously, with 31 percent of people citing this as their reason for using VPNs. The second major reason is to unlock sites that they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to unlock — like Netflix and the Apple Store — with 30 percent of people citing this as the main reason they use VPNs.

With cyber attacks continuing on a rising curve, it may be time for much wider use of VPNs, especially on the part of individual consumers and small businesses. The good news is that robust VPN services are readily available for free or at modest costs. Any anyone can take the wise step of encrypting their digital tracks, and masking their  personal data, while using Internet-based services.

About the author:  John Mason is a cyber-security analyst and writer at thebestvpn, based in Tallinn, Estonia. He writes about privacy related concerns, news, politics and technology on a consistent basis.

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from The Last Watchdog authored by bacohido. Read the original post at: