Cyber crime can seem like an abstract phenomenon - until you become its victim

No one is immune from hackers, but adhering to rudimentary security protocols can spare us catastrophic data breaches

AI poses imminent threats to digital, physical and political security by allowing for large-scale, finely targeted, highly efficient attacks. Tek Image/Science Photo Library

Technological advances over the last decade have vastly improved our lives. At the same time, they have enabled a corresponding rise in cyber crime, making ordinary users vulnerable to theft and blackmail, and exposing governments to malware attacks capable of compromising national security. The recently released results of a survey carried out by the global cyber-security firm Kaspersky Lab reveal deeply troubling details. More than half of consumers are vulnerable to data thefts simply because they fail to take basic security precautions such as creating pin numbers on their smartphones.

Some 73 per cent of the respondents said they were not concerned about digital crime. As a result, their photos, videos and bank details are freely available to enterprising hackers. The threat to post sensitive information, such as private pictures, on public forums is often made by criminal hackers to demand ransom from their victims. People are more willing to pay the money than lock their gadgets. For many people, cyber crime is an abstract phenomenon until they are affected by it. It is important to remember that, in this digital age, no one is immune to it – not even corporations and governments.


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Last week, a report by the cyber security company FireEye warned that hackers on the payroll of the Iranian government may be behind the spate of attacks on American, Saudi Arabian and South Korean aviation and energy firms. This came on the heels of the data breach at the credit monitoring agency Equifax. The information of thousands of consumers is now in the hands of hackers.

Cyber criminals can do lasting damage once they have broken into a system. In 2012, Saudi Aramco had to shut down its network and destroy 30,000 computers after being infiltrated by the Iranian Shamoon virus. These security breaches can often be traced back to the recklessness of individuals. Failure to comply with rudimentary security protocols—such not opening phishing emails—can give rise to devastating losses. Prevention, as always, is the best cure. If you haven’t locked your phone yet, do it now. And if you receive an email with a link that asks you for your passwords, don’t do it.

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