2016: The Year of Hacks


2016: The Year of Hacks

December 31, 2016

From the Yahoo email hacks to the digital spying upon the DNC, 2016 was a frightening year of hacking. This is alarming since, year-by-year, our lives are becoming more and more integrated into the cyberworld. And as evidenced by the following hacks, anyone is vulnerable to having cybercriminals steal information, infect devices with malware or spy on you without you having a clue.

We’ll highlight a couple of the major attacks this year and tell you how to secure yourself for a safe 2017.

The Yahoo Hacks

In September, Yahoo announced that 500 million accounts were stolen in 2014. And just this month, the they announced another, separate hack which took place in 2014 and compromised a whopping 1 billion accounts.

The latter is the largest cybersecurity breach ever.

Yahoo believes someone posing as a government official was behind the attacks.

The kind of information that an email hack can give to criminals is alarming. Names, birthdates, phone numbers, passwords, family information; this sensitive data being hacked by cybercriminals puts Yahoo email users in a very vulnerable position.

Cybersecurity expert Per Thorsheim said this about the scale of the attack: “This is massive. “It will cause ripples online for years to come.”

Just days before the first attack was reported, Verizon had agreed to buy Yahoo’s core properties for $4.83 billion. Yahoo’s stock was steadily increasing after news of the offer, but then dramatically dropped 6% days after news broke about the hack.

The DNC Hacks

Some members of the Democratic party, including presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, had their emails hacked by who many believe to be the Russians.

There’s a lot of evidence pointing to the Russians as the perpetrators, but it remains unconfirmed.

We do know that a domain was purposely registered misspelled to conduct phishing attacks against the Democratic National Committee employees. We know that malware was found on DNC computers and even what IP address it was programmed to communicate with. Among other pieces of evidence, it’s also know that phishing emails were sent using a Moscow-based webmail provider.

Digital spying is just like traditional spying in the sense that whomever is behind the hacks wanted information that could be useful to them. In the events of the presidential race, it is highly speculated the Russians were behind it – though we still don’t know for sure.

We do know, however, that cybercrime is growing and it isn’t slowing down. Basically, everyone with an Internet-connection is susceptible to being hacked.

But you can make yourself a lot safer online. No one else will do it for you, so you’ll have to make the effort to secure your digital life.

Here’s what you should do before the new year comes:

Turn off your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; only use them when you need to: If you don’t turn off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your phone or other mobile device, hackers can very easily slip into your device, steal information, spy on you and infect it with malware. And there’s no way to tell. You wouldn’t even know. So, make sure your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings are off unless you need to use them.

Use two-step authentication: Hackers can get through a single password. To access any online accounts, you should change the settings in your account to enable two-step authentication. That way in addition to entering a password, you’ll also need to provide a correct answer to a security question or enter a code that’s sent to your phone as a text message.

Use a password manager: It’s highly recommended that you use a password manager. This will create strong passwords and store them online. You only need to remember one password to access all your passwords. Use an encrypted service like LastPass or SpiderOak’s Encryptr.

Understand HTTPS: If you’re on a website with a URL that begins in “http” it means anybody can track your browsing or steal your data. Install the HTTSP Everywhere tool by the pro-privacy Electronic Frontier Foundation so that your browsing is secure.

Secure your home or office Wi-Fi: If you have Wi-Fi or are setting up a new Wi-Fi network, do not keep the default password. Change it. Also, choose WPA-2 as the type of security encryption. And if your home router asks if you want to hide the SSID, click no. If you say yes, your device will actively scan for networks and could connect to unsecured ones.

Think again about Internet-connected devices: Do you really need every new gadget that’s “smart?” From baby monitors to ovens to fitness trackers, these Internet-connected devices make you a target for hackers.

This year we saw some of the most vexing online attacks in history. These hacks make it clear that anyone is susceptible.

So that you don’t have your privacy and personal information hacked in 2017, following our advice and secure your digital life before the new year comes.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.