Thinking back to a little less than two decades ago, the internet was drastically different in a variety of ways; the number of people connected to the internet, the ‘surface area’ which means the number of platforms available, and finally the speed and inter-connectedness binding these factors. The internet has grown incredibly over just the last decade alone. To put that into perspective, in a period spanning just five years between 2012 and 2017, an unfathomable two billion people have joined the internet. This equates to a rise of almost 90% for the sheer number of users, while over 1 billion people have begun using social media in this same period.
The internet, or technically speaking cyberspace, is gaining approximately one million users per day, which means more than a dozen users every second. Since the new millennium in the year 2000, internet usage has increased by over 1,200%. An even more intriguing statistic is the dominance of mobile technology over all other devices connected to the internet. In 2009, research reveals that just 0.7% of global internet usage was traced to mobile devices, while that figure last year in 2020 was over 50%.
All of these statistics are rising exponentially and are not going to level off anytime soon, making the internet one of the most important strongholds of our technological evolution as a global society. The key moment for the rise of the internet to a global force in everything from social media to searches, to eCommerce was just ten or so years ago, between 2009 and now. The internet is a key innovative creation of mankind, the sole reason why we are so connected and globalized today and has become just as important as other fundamental industries such as medicine or science without which our society would most probably end up in shambles. This also points to the fact that cultivating and protecting the internet is obviously a number one priority.
So as not to lose this extremely versatile communications tool and fundamental part of life that we rely on and care about so much, we have to direct our focus at solving the obstacles, hindrances, and issues we face on the internet today; whether that be the privacy issues surrounding data collection or the dangers that cybercriminals create for us every day. The sector that deals with internet (and device) safety, as well as the transfer and creation of internet safety knowledge, is called cybersecurity.
Cultivating And Protecting Cyberspace: Cybersecurity
Speaking of protection and cultivation of the internet, the section of the IT (information technology) sector that is responsible for this is called cybersecurity. In simple terms, having a firewall turned on on your laptop is being cyber secure just as much as knowing what multi-factor authentication is, which is explained in more detail on vpnoverview’s website. In much the same way, using a VPN or Virtual Private Network or being educated about what malware, ransomware or phishing entail is also what being cyber secure is about. Cybersecurity is a growing sector, and surprisingly it isn’t a very large one. Today, around 3 million people work in cybersecurity, but research shows that there is a large talent gap in the sector and that at least 3 more million professionals are required to close the gap. Over 60% of organizations are understaffed when it comes to cybersecurity, and there is a large problem with underqualified individuals in the field. It is crucial to improve these numbers, as cybercriminal destruction and disruption from ransomware and scams are on a steep rise.
The Fight Against Phishing
Cybercrime and cybercriminals that orchestrate online attacks and disruptions are the key reason that our internet is so unsafe today. Specifically, according to research conducted by the industry, the biggest online dangers are most often things like data breaches, DDoS (denial of service), as well as ransomware, and phishing. Now, the latter two attack methods are the most prevalent online today. Both of these attack methods have several attack vectors, where socially engineered scams are the most widespread. First, we must remember that cybercriminals (just like real-world criminals) are looking to maximize their gains (whether that be profit, data theft, or pure destruction) in the easiest way possible, in the shortest amount of time.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is exactly what it sounds like. Cybercriminals will leverage social engineering tactics in order to ‘bait’ an internet user into divulging their information by tricking them either into trusting them or tricking them into clicking an attachment in an email that will introduce spyware or another kind of malware into their computer geared towards snooping on data and stealing credentials. Some cybercriminals will even go so far as to create fake web pages or even fake wi-fi hotspots, that the user will unknowingly click on and enter their username and password -thus handing over sensitive information to the cybercriminal. One look at your “spam” folder in your email account will let you know just how many attempted phishing emails have been blocked, and what they look like.
Sometimes, because cybercriminals now have come a long way and make sophisticated social engineering tactics, it will be difficult to know whether you are being phished or not -but we will cover some knowledge on how to detect this before it happens, in the section below. Social engineering tactics are massively conducted, usually by big teams of ‘engineers’ that scam people. These teams can also automate and send out millions of phishing emails, thereby casting a large net into the internet waters, and steal credentials from anyone who falls for the ‘bait’. This cybercrime has caused a lot of damage to both people (such as targeted spear-phishing) and businesses alike and still happens every day.
Tips on How to Avoid Being ‘Phished’ Online
Phishing attempts have grown by over 60% and millions of phishing websites are created monthly, which make this method the leading cause of devastating data breaches. It is a scam that most people and businesses are not aware of and cannot distinguish, to this day. Alas, the good news is that there is a way to combat these scams, and statistics have shown great results;
- Organizations that introduced cybersecurity training have reduced user error by a large margin
- The use of cybersecurity software has greatly curbed successful phishing attacks
- Increasing awareness of these ‘invisible’ scams is starting to pay off
What Can You Do To Stop These Attempts Aimed at You or Your Business?
Given that the vast majority of these cyber attacks take place over email (even though social media users can also be targeted), it is crucial to put the following tips into practice;
- Have a premium antivirus or anti-malware software installed that has anti-phishing capabilities
- Browse the internet with a privacy-oriented browser and a VPN installed
- Always backup your data on multiple physical hard drives
- Make sure that the website you are visiting is HTTPS protected and has a valid certificate
- Never open or respond to questionable emails, messages, or prompts
- Avoid public (hotel, municipal) wi-fi and use your personal mobile data
Fraudster cybercriminals will stop at no end to scam you or your organization by impersonating or urging you to respond to an email. The most effective way to never get involved in these scams is to primarily look at the origin and sender of emails in your inbox as well as simply do not trust messages from people or organizations you don’t know.