Internet Security and Privacy Advice for 2017

A VPN service provider gives internet security predictions and advice for the year ahead.
Published: January 5, 2017

The following story originally ran in our sister publication, Security Sales & Integration.

By any measure, 2016 may go down as the worst year ever in terms of online privacy infringements.

Consider the rash of major corporate hacks, increasingly restrictive surveillance laws of governments around the world and authoritarian regimes blocking the Internet to restrict the freedom of speech.

So, what’s in store for 2017? VPN service provider NordVPN has drafted some advice on how private citizens and institutions can better protect their online identities and sensitive information, as well as offers a glimpse into their 2017 crystal ball. Let’s take a look.

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Increased Mobile Ransomware

With ransomware, a malicious program is installed on a computer that blocks the user’s access to the system or certain files. This block is removed when the user pays the creator of the ransomware, usually in Bitcoins. Although it is predicted that general ransomware will decrease as new technologies are created and law enforcement agencies cracks down on them, mobile ransomware is expected to rise. Since mobile users generally have their data backed up on the cloud, mobile ransomware will aim to steal users’ bank credentials and take money directly from their accounts.

Increase In IoT Malware

Unfortunately, the October Dynn DDoS attack was not an isolated event. As Internet of Things (IoT) devices become common-use, they will continue to come under attack. Because these smart devices are what’s known as “stick” – people who buy them rarely replace or upgrade them – the IoT device makers often include only minimum features, shortening the development process and cutting costs. This is particularly dangerous for privacy, since lesser security features means easier backdoor access. When one device is compromised, the hacker can easily overtake the whole system of interconnected devices. Smart devices shipped out in 2017 may have backdoors and malware already installed, and this will be a huge privacy concern.

Drone Jacking

With drones becoming increasingly popular as both a hobby and a business, it’s only logical that they will become more ubiquitous in 2017. Unfortunately, there has been some evidence that it is possible to hack drones and take control of them. Amazon and UPS have both announced that they plan to deliver their packages to consumers via drones. A hacker could possibly take control of the drone and thereby intercept the package meant for the consumer. Beyond that, many law enforcement agencies are using drones for surveillance. It’s predicted that surveillance drones might be intercepted to disarm the video and audio feeds.

Greater Censorship and Government Surveillance

According to Freedom House, Internet freedom has been on the decline for six straight years, and there’s no sign of it stopping. This year, there have been huge Internet liberty crackdowns such as the introduction of strict data retention laws (i.e. in the UK, Poland, etc.) and laws attacking communications apps such as WhatsApp and Viber, as well as blocking certain social media sites.

These crackdowns on communication apps and social media sites goes hand-in-hand with attempts to limit citizen privacy and increase mass surveillance. This may be the greatest threat to privacy of them all. It seems that Internet privacy will be declining even more around the world in 2017. For example, Americans fear that the new administration might “erode cyber privacy,” and the UK now has an unprecedented surveillance law that allows for mass hacking, among other things – which could lead to massive data breaches. One piece of hopeful news was the current EU court ruling that gave a blow to UK’s surveillance law.

How to Secure Your Web Presence in 2017

In order to best protect your privacy, it is imperative to be vigilant in online activities. Internet users need to be careful not to click on strange emailed links, not to download from unofficial app marketplaces, to always have strong passwords, and to be generally cautious when going online. Learning about Internet privacy best practices is strongly advised as we head into 2017.

It is also highly recommended to use secure privacy tools, such as VPNs, which help hide the user’s true location (IP address) and encrypt all the information that is being transferred through the Internet. Such a user becomes impossible to track.

In general, there is no reason to believe that global privacy will fare any better in 2017 than it has in 2016, and therefore it is most likely that both the criminal element online and the mass data collection initiatives will pose data breach threats in the next year. Internet users and institutions need to take their own precautions in order to stay secure and private online.

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