Online Security Threats to Watch for in 2016

This is a Guest Post by Leigh Louey-Gung

As someone who specializes in online businesses and internet security, the year 2016 is looking to be an even more interesting one than 2015, which saw multiple high-profile hacks, the rise of mobile cybercrime and the evolution of corporate responsibility when it comes to the legal repercussions of cybercrime (that will be important to follow). Meanwhile, some of our tech pillars such as Flash continue to crumble and be replaced.

As our technology progresses, so do the abilities and priorities of cybercriminals. You don’t hear much about cybercrime regarding Windows Phones, mostly because they’ve become so unpopular that they’re an afterthought in the smartphone world. As we become more connected, the laptop or desktop ceases to become the only worthwhile target. We keep so much of our business and personal data on other devices that it becomes possible to perform identity theft through one getting compromised.

1Here are some of the threats I predict will be of special note in the coming year:

The (Continuing) Danger of Public Networks

Public networks have been dangerous ever since they first became popular as a means to bring in customers. To clarify, public networks are inherently fine, it’s just that they’re hardly ever protected and hackers will often lurk on them all day to collect any information sent over the network. This can include private business communications or account login data, which can quickly lead to all different kinds of cybercrime (identity theft being the most prevalent).

Given the continual sales of smartphones and tablets that are designed to use (and sometimes automatically connect to) such networks, data interception remains highly profitable for hackers. You and those you care about need to defend yourselves, and I recommend using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your connection and stay anonymous on these networks.

Other business leaders might want to give subscriptions to their employees that meet clients in public regularly. Unfortunately, the normal precautions and protections still aren’t enough to meet this threat in 2016.

Mobile Malware

Do you remember a time when smartphones just didn’t get malware? Those were great times, but unfortunately cybercriminals caught onto the opportunity and have now developed various kinds of malware and even ransomware for your smartphone, with Androids being particularly vulnerable. Malware developers are starting to reach a level of mastery equivalent to those who target PCs, and 2016 looks to bring with it a scourge of these programs.

I recommend anyone who is concerned brush up on their basic internet security and adjust those ideas to smartphone use. On your PC you have a chance at deleting it before it causes too much damage, but smartphones are trickier beasts with fewer options to take back control. Mobile protection software much like our modern desktop security suites will soon become a necessity on every smartphone that wants to last more than a month. Such a reality will likely come to pass before the year is through.

Corporate Data Breaches

Why do most corporations never seem to learn? After the Office of Personnel Management hack and the barrage of cyberattacks on healthcare providers this year (they really are too numerous to count, to the sector’s discredit), we can no longer expect large organizations to make much of an effort to protect their digital communications and assets. The tech giants such as Google and Facebook are exceptions to this rule, partially because they know the implications of a data breach would be catastrophic.

In 2016 people are going to start to think even more seriously about where there information is going and what is protecting it. Many people have already had to be alerted to potential identity theft after a breach and don’t want to go through that process again. They might start to vote with their dollars or encourage stricter legislation on the matter. Despite all of this, the profit is still to be made by cybercriminals, and I’m afraid it will get a bit worse before it gets better.

Browser Plugins and Extensions

If you haven’t heard already, Flash is somewhere between dead and dying, and one of the main reasons for this is the gaping security holes that exist within the plugin. Java isn’t doing all that well either and is a main component in XSS attacks. More will be discovered in 2016, and as companies and app developers focus on other platforms the security updates for yesterday’s browser plugins will become scarce. This does not create a welcome security situation, and I’d recommend deleting such things from your computer.

On a similar note are browser extensions and toolbars that you probably have tried a few times until you disabled them for cluttering up your screen. As harmless as they may seem, they can often collect data on your activities and contain security loopholes that’ll allow hackers to pry into your personal information. If they aren’t updated regularly enough (most aren’t), this threat only gets worse. To stay safe in 2016, you’ll want to avoid them on a more regular basis.

2The coming year isn’t going to be any easier from a security standpoint, but the right preparations can keep you safe in a sea of online trouble. Remember to stay constantly vigilant for new threats and know that the devices you take for granted will be the devices that are targeted the most. The stakes are only going to rise, so do what you need to do right away.

If you have any thoughts on this topic, please leave a comment below. There are plenty of other security threats on the internet, and I’d love to read what you have to say on the matter. Similarly, I’d like to hear about any direct experiences about the above topics on a business or personal level. Thank you for reading, and may you stay safe in the coming year.

Disclaimer: This is a guest post. The statements, opinions and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of iamwire and the editor(s).

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