Every minute sees at least half a million cyber attacks taking place. This is the volatile environment of the digital realm that requires increasingly stringent cyber security. 2014 was The Year of the Breach; 2015 was The Year of the Really Big Breach; so what has 2016 developed? Here are some of the biggest cyber security trends of 2016.

An obsession with connectivity

Unsurprisingly, 2016 saw 6.8 billion devices connected to cyberspace in some form. These numbers present hackers with an unprecedented playground. Derek Manky, global security strategist of Fortinet, says that we’ve seen increasingly sophisticated attacks on everything from critical infrastructure to medical devices. And the Internet of Things is building our reliance on connectivity, therefore proliferating the challenges. The biggest issue with this is that many people, and even businesses, don’t prioritize security, inadvertently putting a lot of information at risk.

Headless worms

These nasty pieces of code target ‘headless devices’ such as smartphones and wearable technology. The reason they’re so damaging is that they’re able to spread like wildfire, infecting millions, if not billions, of devices as they go. This enables one network to organize an attack on an enormous scale as these ‘worms’ can be coded to cause the systematic failure of devices or simply collect data with malicious intent.

Attacks on the cloud

The progression of technologies in the ‘digitalization’ of information puts cloud storage at greater risk for attack. And 2016 has seen an explosion of attacks on this cloud-based infrastructure, including virtual machines. Perhaps the most alarming of this trend is the humble app’s reliance on cloud. This means that mobile devices running compromised apps have been offering a route for hackers to attack public, private and corporate cloud networks.

The growth of ransomware

2016 has also seen CryptoWall, a ‘super’ ransomware of sorts, cause $325 million worth of damages. This type of threat is activated by clicking on a link in a phishing email. The malware infects the device or network and encrypts all available information with a highly-sophisticated encryption. This makes the data worthless unless the device or network owner pays the monetary ransom. And this isn’t the only way cyber criminals have made money off of data. Stealing data is no longer the end goal, and hackers have been accessing data and changing it. Imagine how bad data can affect stock prices, enabling higher dividends, or how corrupt data can affect high-end decision making.

As 2016 draws to a close, 2017 will no doubt bring with it more advanced cyber security threats. Both companies and private persons are encouraged to enforce more stringent securities. Be sure to read our recent blog post on the recent DDoS attack that (sort of) broke the internet, and to explore a wealth of information on cyber security and how to better protect yourself. A little bit of research into antivirus software, phishing scams and the security risks of the Internet of Things is a good place to start.

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