From our cell phones to our laptops and now extending into home appliances and automobiles, technology is an inescapable and essential part of life. There are very few things people use today that is not, in some way, connected to a computer of some sort.
Also as important today is the need for reliable security measures to protect the personal information stored on computers and other devices. However, as evidenced by recent security breaches by bad actors, such as the Equifax breach, cybersecurity is still lagging in being able to ensure personal information is not vulnerable.
Sam Segran, the chief information officer and vice president for Information Technology in Texas Tech University's Information Technology Division, is available to the media as an expert in cybersecurity as part of the Department of Homeland Security'sNational Cybersecurity Awareness Month, an annual initiative to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity.
- From mid-May through July 2017, hackers accessed people's names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and driver's license numbers from Equifax. This data breach affected an estimated 143 million U.S. consumers. The hackers also stole credit card numbers of an estimated 209,000 people, personal information from dispute documents of an estimated 182,000 people, and personal information of people in Great Britain and Canada.
- The Equifax data breach is already becoming a passing memory, but it doesn't change the fact that their data is already exposed, waiting for the hackers to exploit.
- A credit freeze blocks potential creditors or others from viewing your credit and also makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Following the Equifax breach, it is even more important now to consider credit freezes. Since May 2018, credit freezes are free.
- Cybercriminals are targeting children's identities as well, since their exploits potentially won't be discovered until years later. Consumers should consider placing credit freezes now for children whose information may have already been compromised.
- The cost of cybercrime, estimated between $600 billion and over $1 trillion, exceeds the gross domestic product (GDP) of many countries in the world. As of June 2018, there are only 16 countries in the world with a GDP in excess of $1 trillion. However, the cost of cybercrime is much more than the loss of money. It includes loss of privacy, reduced personal safety, economic hardships, failing businesses, reputational harm and reduced national security.
- In addition to data devices like computers, tablets and mobile devices, many people are jumping on the bandwagon of attaching almost everything else to the Internet, such as refrigerators, cars, baby monitors, coffee pots, wearable technology such as the Apple Watch, home automation devices and medical devices. These are generally known as Internet of Things (IoT).
- Gartner predicts the number of IoT devices will grow from about 8.4 billion in 2017 to 20 billion in 2020. IoT devices are inherently not secure out-of-the-box and cybercriminals are already using these devices as another major avenue of cyberattacks. Cybercriminals have compromised millions of IoT devices and used them to bring down major networks and websites (e.g., by using the Mirai botnet in 2016).
- “The Genie is out of the bottle. Our personal identity information is out in the wild.”
- “Our children's credit profiles are cybercriminal targets that we don't normally think about. Protect their information now to secure their financial future.”
- “Cybercrime is a trillion-dollar industry on our backs. Some small businesses may be one data breach away from bankruptcies.”
- “When it comes to IoTs and cybercrimes, we haven't even scratched the surface yet.”