Data, including personal and sensitive information, has become highly valuable. Cyberattacks are constantly making headlines, causing panic for businesses and internet users. But who are these internet predators, and why are they so interested in our data?
Let’s explore the main motives behind cyberattacks so that nobody would say cybersecurity hygiene doesn’t interest them.
1. Financial gain
The most common motive is as old as time – it’s money. Most cybercriminals are solely operating for financial gain. They target individuals, corporations, and even governments to steal sensitive data that can be sold or ransomed. Credit card information, social security numbers, and bank account details are what these attackers are after. With this information, they can make unauthorized transactions, sell the data on the dark web, or hold it hostage until a ransom is paid.
Ransomware, in particular, has become a huge concern among security experts and regulators. Human-operated ransomware attacks have tripled over the past year, partly due to weak security controls resulting from “bring your own device” company policies.
Criminal gangs are not the only ones interested in cyberattacks. Nations spy on each other, seeking sensitive information to gain a competitive advantage. Instead of sending trained spies to enemy territory, nations invest in a skilled cyber force capable of undertaking sophisticated attacks against foreign governments. All major world powers use cyber espionage to gain a geopolitical advantage – it’s simply easier.
It’s not just about governments, though. Companies are also involved, aiming to steal trade secrets and intellectual property to advance in the business world. A popular technique in company attacks is DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. These attacks are cheap and easy to orchestrate yet cause significant disruption for competitors.
Last but not least are the hacktivists, who break into systems to promote a political or social cause. Hacktivists typically operate as a group but can also act individually. These Robin Hood-like entities aren’t always after money. Instead, they aim to expose, disrupt, and embarrass their targets to bring attention to issues like privacy invasion, human (or animal) rights abuses, or environmental concerns. It’s a controversial practice, blurring the lines between activism and crime.
The most popular hacktivist group is Anonymous. They’ve been involved in several highly publicized feuds with governments, political groups, and large corporations. Of individual hacktivists, perhaps the most popular is Edward Snowden. He exposed highly classified documents from the CIA and NSA showing how the government spies on its citizens. Despite the fact he was right, he is now living in exile, showing how severe the consequences of activism can be.
The importance of data security
Money runs the world and is a major motivator for most things people do. Understanding this should give you a fairly good idea of the lengths criminals will go to steal sensitive data, no matter the target. Our digital footprint is as real and permanent as our physical one, so protecting our sensitive information is essential. It’s not just about safeguarding our financial assets but also about preserving our privacy, identity, and freedom.
So, how do we fortify our digital lives against cyber threats?
Security best practices
The path towards cyber resilience starts with awareness and education. Being informed about the latest scams, understanding the value of our data, and knowing the tactics employed by cybercriminals is the first line of defense. Since threats are constantly evolving, strong cybersecurity requires a proactive approach.
Some of the most essential security practices you must adopt are:
- Use strong, unique passwords for each online account. Simple passwords can be cracked in seconds with brute-force attacks, while strong, complex passwords can take years to do the same.
- Use a VPN to secure your connection. There are many VPN providers, though, so compare them yourself or see a VPN comparison table Reddit provides.
- Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) to add an extra layer of security on top of your strong password.
- Be wary of unsolicited communications asking for sensitive information. This is also known as phishing, where cybercriminals impersonate trusted individuals to extract sensitive information from unsuspecting victims.
- Install the latest system and software updates, as they often contain essential fixes to security issues.
Secure Cloud Storage
Another important tool that’s become a staple for data security in recent years is the cloud. Secure cloud storage can also function similarly to a password manager like the Chrome Password Manager extension, as it is equipped with the latest security technologies to keep our data safe. Look for providers that offer end-to-end encryption, robust access controls, and regular security audits. In the cloud, our data is not just stored; it’s guarded, monitored, and protected against evolving cyber threats.
Aside from being secure, the cloud is very practical, offering users the flexibility to access their data from anywhere at any time.
Securing your data against cybercrime is like a chess game, where we are both players and pawns. Motivated by financial gain, espionage, and activism, cybercriminals will likely remain prevalent for as long as the internet exists. By understanding these motives and arming ourselves with knowledge and tools like secure cloud storage, we can turn the tables, making our data a strength, not a vulnerability.