The internet is a fountain of information, entertainment and education, and it is impossible to conceive a world without it. But there is also a darker side to it all. The dark web is 500 times larger than the surface Web, according to some estimates, and is lurking with cyber criminals and hackers of all hues. Ransomware alone was a $1 billion industry last year.
The year 2017 saw some major cyber security incidents from ransomware and leaks of spy tools from US intelligence agencies to data breaches in companies such as HBO and Equifax. Things may only get worse in 2018 as cybercriminals attempt to manipulate users by targeting the software and hardware supply chain. According to Gartner, the worldwide information security spending will reach $86.4 billion by the end of 2017 and the 2017 Cybercrime Report postulates that cybercrime damages will cost a whooping $6 trillion annually by 2021.
Complete safety in the cyber world is a mirage as any email and website could be infected with viruses, keyloggers and Trojans et al. Such malware slow down the computer’s processing speed, delete important files, access personal information and in extreme cases, take over the complete running of the computer. And just like their biological counterparts, the computer viruses are adept at attacking stealthily and morphing into newer and more portent forms that conceal themselves from even the best available malware protection programs.
Some basic steps can go a long way in protecting against spiraling online threats. A good starting point is the installation of a firewall, which is the first barrier between a computer and an unauthorized intruding program. Every computer should also be equipped with an antivirus or malware software that would scan for, search and delete malware. The malware software should be updated regularly to keep pace with the evolution in malware. The operating system should also be updated in order to plug security vulnerabilities. One should prevent the installation and execution of unauthorized software. Web browsers are vital applications; it is thus crucial to use the latest versions of the web browser as a compromised browser can allow a hacker to track passwords and credit card numbers typed onto the computer.
Securing the e-mail by converting all incoming HTML content to plain text and securing passwords are also an important component of computer security. Additionally, encrypting data is a crucial step in preventing the theft of personal data and money from banks and credit card accounts. It is advisable to use only encrypted websites, indicated by an ‘https’ extension, for financial transactions. It is also prudent to use website security tools such as Site Guard to guard against malware attacks.
Education and awareness of cyber security issues are fundamental steps towards becoming digitally healthy individuals and organizations. The dangers inherent in the cyber world are not a reason to shun the internet, but rather a call to action. An integrated approach that encompasses information, cloud and networking is the best approach to protect against threats emanating from the dark internet.