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Cybersecurity: Threats and safety measures

Cybersecurity: Threats and safety measures

Information Technology is rapidly transforming toward a digital era. With huge paces toward broadband internet through wireless and wireline technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), machine-to-machine (M2M) learning, internet of things (IoT), etc, cybersecurity in networks has taken over all discussions across industries, like never before. Cybersecurity has been a widespread priority since the latter half of the ‘90s, when the dot-com boom brought the world online. More than 20 years later, we have witnessed an explosion in the number and severity of cybercrime over the course of just a few years. We’re likely to see security threats become more sophisticated and therefore more expensive over time. Experts predict that the global cost of cybercrime will reach $10.5trn by 2025, substantially up from $3trn in 2015.

Nepal’s context

Cybersecurity attacks in Nepal reached its peak in 2017 when 58 different governmental sites were hacked by a group of hackers. They leaked the customer’s information and citizen’s information creating a threat to the public as well as governmental organizations. Around a year back, Nepal government’s main server again faced cyberattacks causing the shutdown of a large number of government official websites. More than 400 Nepal government websites went down for hours, disrupting services and inconveniencing thousands of passengers at Kathmandu airport, exposing the vulnerability to hacking of the domain. Hackers appear to have targeted the government’s only central data bank at the Government Integrated Data Center (GIDC) with a ‘Distributed-Denial of Service’ attack, possibly from abroad, and knocked out most government ministry websites, including the database of the Department of Immigration as well as Passports. Likewise, we often come to know about hacking of Facebook, Instagram, bank accounts, etc where hackers have benefited with personal information and money in some cases. Cyber Bureau of Nepal Police is looking after cybersecurity-related crimes and is overburdened by an increased number of cases day by day.

Cybersecurity threats

Human interaction through email by cybercriminals remains the most dangerous hacking technique, largely because it relies on human error rather than technical vulnerabilities. It’s a lot easier to trick a human than it is to breach a security system. A study report by PwC UK revealed that over 75 percent of targeted cyberattacks start with an email. Phishing is one of the top causes of data breaches, followed by the use of stolen credentials and ransomware. Phishing and email impersonation continue to evolve to incorporate new trends, technologies and tactics. Hackers try to decoy individuals with an unbelievable amount of prize, lottery, gifts and influence for leaking the secured data and hack the bank account or ask to deposit cash at the intended bank account and later on, they fly away in no time. For organizations or companies, in some cases, hackers are not motivated by money. They simply want to make a point—social, economic, political, religious, or ethical. They leverage website defacements, ransomware, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, leaking confidential information, etc. Hackers just need data, no matter what the source may be. It’s not specific to government sites. They keep on looking for vulnerabilities, and they steal data wherever found.

Cybercriminals can get around security systems by hacking less-protected networks belonging to third parties that have privileged access to the hacker’s primary target. One major example of a third-party breach occurred at the beginning of 2021 when hackers leaked personal data from over 214m Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts. The hackers were able to access the data by breaching a third-party contractor that was employed by all three companies and had privileged access to their networks.

Most of us might think the Cloud would become more secure over time, but chances are that this may not happen. As per a recent IBM study report, Cloud Vulnerabilities have increased with a high stake of 150 percent in the last five years. According to Gartner, a renowned management consulting company, Cloud security is currently the fastest-growing cybersecurity market segment due to the rapid increase in use of Cloud-based services.

Large-scale adoption of mobile wallets and touchless payment technology presents a target for cybercriminals. Financial and other prominent data may be under the control of cybercriminals due to mobile device vulnerabilities that have been impaired by the increase in remote work. Regular habits and practices regarding the use of technology, like using unprotected WiFi networks and failing to implement safeguards like a VPN or multi-factor authentication is another threat for cybersecurity.    

Safety measures

The future of cybersecurity is like a journey into the digital world, where there are both challenges and new ideas. As we rely more on technology and everything gets connected, it’s super important to keep our digital stuff safe. Here, we talk about what’s coming up in cybersecurity, like new threats and cool technology, and how we can protect ourselves online. At a time when hackers are getting smarter, knowing about cybersecurity is crucial for everyone, whether you’re a person, a business, or a government.

As an individual, the most important security measures are keeping your own passwords and other information secured, avoid using unprotected hotspots or wifi networks, don’t believe on unexpected gifts and prizes for which you never have approached and use anti-virus or a comprehensive internet security solution to protect your system from attacks.   

For organizations and governments, one of the big things in the future of cybersecurity is using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology. These smart algorithms can look at lots of data and find patterns or strange things that might mean there’s a cyberthreat. This helps organizations find and stop cyber-attacks fast, so they don’t do too much damage.

Another thing we’ll see more of in the future of cybersecurity is blockchain technology. Blockchain is like a super secure way to store and move information because it’s not controlled by one central authority. This makes it really tough for cyber bad guys to mess with it. That’s why blockchain is getting more popular, especially in industries like finance, healthcare and government, where keeping data safe is super important and any breach can cause a huge problem.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is also going to be a big deal in the future of cybersecurity. IoT means lots of everyday things are connected to the internet, like smart thermostats or security cameras. So, organizations and governments will have to step up their security game to defend against cyberthreats related to IoT.

The author is a telecom expert and former Managing Director of Nepal Telecom