Is it Safe to Surf the Cyber Sea?

Accompanying the revolutionary digital world, is the heightened continuation of hacking, in which one who hacks can obtain company or personal data that can be sold for a profit; scamming people, blackmailing, and the use of ransomware tactics have also become more prevalent. Although not popularized in the news cycle recently, cybersecurity has quickly become a massive problem, some sources reporting a 50 percent increase in email containing malware files in 2018.

News of cybersecurity breaches have often made the back pages of a newspaper. Although these attacks can be small, lack of prosecution and lack of awareness are leading to a higher frequency. Ransomware is a term for hackers who use software to spread a digital virus from one vulnerable server to another that in turn, encrypts a code which can make files inaccessible. Hackers often give an ultimatum to the host whose files they have held for ransom. For example, in early 2018 Hancock Health, a regional hospital in Greenfield, Indiana, was held captive by ransomware; the hackers demanded $55,000 or else they would encrypt the hospital’s files, making them inaccessible. The hospital’s CEO Steve Long, who believes the hackers are from Eastern Europe, reluctantly paid the requested funds for the decryption keys.

On a smaller scale, average people are also at risk of information breaches like identity theft. Individuals fail to understand that everything online is not private. Once you hit send, the information shared can be intercepted at servers and copied, just like a package in the mail can be opened and searched. The people most at risk are those who have simple passwords or don’t exercise caution when browsing the web. Similar to insurance policies which manage property or personal risk, cybersecurity simply manages online risk, it doesn’t make you or your company completely safe. It can however, make you a more difficult and less appealing target for hackers.     

“Information is money on the Internet, plain and simple. Personal information is scrubbed off of websites and sold over and over, used by marketers (legitimate and unscrupulous) and scammers,” said Kim Moore, All Saints’ Upper School Librarian and Digital Literacy teacher. She was made aware of the elevating issue of cybersecurity when researching and attending seminars for her courses.

“People are tracked all the time. This is what ‘cookies’ do,” Mrs. Moore added. “Cookies were designed to save time when online by allowing websites to ‘remember’ passwords, but now they actually track where you have been and make suggestions about websites or things you might want to buy. If a website can track you, so can a cybercriminal!”

Justin Stock, an All Saints’ IT consultant, shed some light on cybersecurity risks.

“You think you are communicating with a real person, but it could be a bot or a person pretending to be someone else. Their ultimate goal is to get money,” Stock said.  Although Stock mentioned that “people are not breached that often–luckily,” precautions should be taken at all times to prevent cyber breaches of personal information. Incorporating characters and capitalized letters in passwords and not blindly joining an open, insecure network at public facilities, are two examples of good safety practices.  

“The biggest precaution is not to use a wireless network that is public or that you know nothing about, as those are more likely to have several vulnerabilities of attack built-in,” says Stock.

Stock went as far as suggesting the use of a pass sentence rather than a password or phrase. A short sentence is much more complex than a single word and can add years to the time it takes to hack  a profile.

“If we do something simple like capitalize the ‘T’ in ‘Thecolorisblack,’ it will take 44 million years to hack. Therefore, ‘Thecolorisblack’ is virtually unbreakable, and it is easy to remember,” Stock elaborated.

As technology advances, the danger of cybersecurity breaches will only increase, as will the ways to prevent breaches. It is important to realize that although the Internet seems like an imaginary world, it is a permanent reality in which our lives leave a digital footprint that can never be fully erased.   




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