International Internet Day: A Reminder about Security Online.

Looking for another reason to put on your party hat? Well, we’ve got one: International Internet Day. Celebrated every October 29th since 2005, International Internet Day celebrates the first electronic message ever transferred between two computers.

That first, small electronic transmission consisted of just an ‘L’ and an ‘O’ and took place back in 1969 just months after Neil Armstrong famously stated “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” as he walked on the moon. The transmission of those two letters represented the birth of the Internet, and the world has never looked back. Today we send approximately 293.6 billion emails per day, a far cry from those two little letters of the alphabet sent 50 years ago.

Granted, International Internet Day may not be the type of holiday that party dreams are made of, but as holidays celebrating world-changing inventions go, International Internet Day is right there at the top. On a more serious note, it also serves as an important wakeup call about cyber safety and the need to maintain security online. Considering that a hacking attack takes place approximately every 39 seconds, it’s a wakeup call we can’t ignore.

So just what are these threats to online security?

The list of online security threats is long, growing and evolving, but there are a few threats that standout in particular:

Malware – Malware run the gamut from adware, ransomware, and spyware to Trojans, viruses, and worms. Hackers use malware to illegally obtain credit card details, login credentials, PINs, and other sensitive information in order to steal money from their victims or make money by selling the information on the dark web. Malware can also be used to hold data hostage or steal identities. The best way for individuals and businesses to protect their systems and data is to install powerful antivirus software that provides scanning and protection, detection and threat removal in real time.

Phishing – Phishing takes many forms and it is one of the most widespread types of cyber attacks. These unwelcome intruders appear as routine, everyday emails from reliable sources, but in actuality deliver malware that gives hackers unauthorized access to a user’s data or computers. Hackers love phishing attacks because they have a high success rate and because phishing tools are low cost and widespread. Whaling, vishing, spear fishing, and smishing are all types of phishing attacks and they all rely on social engineering to trick victims into clicking on malicious links, visiting malicious websites, or downloading malicious attachments. Installing a secure browsing extension and maintaining a healthy dose of caution and awareness of phishing tactics, whether by the individual or company employees, are the most effective ways to stop phishing attacks.

Unsecure Web Browsing – It’s not only phishing emails that can lure us into visiting malicious websites; innocent Web browsing or Web surfing can too. Malicious websites, which look like legitimate sites, will try to install any number of different types of malware by getting you to install software that your computer seems to need. However, there are also drive-by downloads, where all you have to do is just visit the malicious site to be infected; the actual download isn’t even necessary. In addition to keeping your web browser and operating system current, browser protection extensions, and unwanted software blockers are the best protection against malicious websites, but as with any cyber threat, cybersecurity awareness is key and you should always exercise caution before opening emails that look suspicious or visiting websites with odd URLs.

Rootkits – A rootkit is a program or even a collection of programs that covertly sit on a compromised computer and provide unauthorized access and control of the computer or its software to a hacker. Rootkits are difficult to detect and can go undetected for years as their principal function is to hide and protect their existence and the existence of other malware, which they often do by shutting down antivirus software. Rootkits are used to plant malware that can spy on and steal sensitive information such as banking credentials, passwords, and trade secrets, and to launch further network security attacks. Comprehensive, advanced antivirus software, browser protection and unwanted software blockers are the best defense against rootkits. Making sure your operating software and your antivirus software are always current and have the latest security patches is essential too. And if we haven’t said it enough, be aware of phishing emails, malicious websites, and attachments sent from unfamiliar sources.

Third party and supply chain attacks – Specifically relevant to businesses, supply chain attacks can be devastating, especially to small and medium sized businesses that don’t have the resources to recover from such an attack. Third party and supply chain attacks take place when your business systems are compromised via an outside partner or service provider that has access to your data. Hackers will look for the weakest link in an online supply network such as unsecure network protocols or unsafe coding practices, and then slip their malware onto the target system without anyone ever noticing.

These attacks can wreak untold financial and reputational damage to businesses as they can go undetected for extended periods of time, furtively stealing sensitive information. Again, awareness and caution are requisite to a viable cybersecurity defense. Vetting your vendors to make sure they have the latest cybersecurity measures in place and making sure your operating systems and antivirus software are up-to-date are critical security steps too.

Celebrate this holiday? Sure, but don’t forget about cybersecurity.
The ‘L’ and ‘O’ sent in that initial Internet transmission was supposed to be part of a larger transmission sending the word ‘Login’. The first attempt crashed, but a second attempt was successful and heralded in the era of the Internet.

This day has certainly earned its place in history and deserves to be celebrated, but today the larger Internet picture includes being knowledgeable of cybersecurity issues and following good cyber hygiene. Without cybersecurity measures, your data and privacy are vulnerable and if you’re attacked, celebrating International Internet Day will be the last thing on your mind.

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