by Graham Newman at Chappel, Chappel & Newman

The cell phone is the perfect metaphor for the digital age. The computers that power a typical iPhone or Android are tens of thousands of times more powerful than the computers that powered the Apollo Space Program. This technology has provided us with remarkable tools ranging from instant communication across the globe to commercial transactions with the touch of a button. But with this new technology comes new risk that underscores the importance of cybersecurity in the digital age. Here are just a few examples of the necessity for good cyber security.

Protection of Personal Data

Protecting sensitive personal data is the first cybersecurity priority for most people. Many organizations digitally store vast amounts of sensitive data, from government bodies to private sector companies. These include companies with which we interact online regularly. For example, banks, credit card companies and payment apps contain direct access to your checking and savings accounts. This data can be vulnerable to cyberattacks without proper cybersecurity measures, leading to theft or manipulation. Personal data, financial information, trade secrets, intellectual property—all of these can be lucrative targets for hackers.

Maintaining Trust and Reputation

For many businesses, trust is paramount. If a business suffers a data breach, it’s not just the immediate financial cost that’s a concern. Their reputation can be damaged, leading to loss of customer trust and potentially resulting in loss of business in the long term. It may also lead to legal consequences if the company did not do enough to protect the data.

Individuals can also be victims of attacks on their trust or reputation. Hacked social media accounts, for example, are often used to promote unseemly ventures like speculative (and possibly illegal) investment opportunities. These scams can leave the victim of cyber hacking with awkward explanations to give family, friends and possibly law enforcement.

Securing Infrastructure

Many critical infrastructure elements, such as power grids, transportation systems and healthcare systems, are increasingly becoming digital and connected. An attack on these systems could have dire consequences, including loss of life. Numerous ransomware attacks have hit utility systems and hospitals, shutting down access to networks that provide essential services to society. Therefore, these entities must pay particular attention to cyber security.

Supporting the Digital Economy

As the emergence of companies like Amazon and PayPal have shown, much of our economy relies on the Internet and digital technology. For it to flourish, users need to have trust in the system. They need to know that their transactions and data are secure. Strong cybersecurity is, therefore, foundational to the continued growth of the digital economy.

So how do you protect yourself from cybersecurity threats? Here are a few options.

  • Strong, unique passwords: First and foremost, each account should have a unique password that is difficult for others to guess. Avoid common passwords and use a password manager to store your passwords securely. Passwords using publicly-available information, such as family members’ names, should be avoided.
  • Two-factor authentication: This adds an extra layer of security by requiring two types of identification before you can access your accounts. Even if someone else knows your password, they won’t be able to access your account without the second factor, such as a code sent to your phone or generated by an authentication app.
  • Update your software regularly: Software updates often include patches for security vulnerabilities. Ensure your operating system, apps and any other software you use are up-to-date to protect against known vulnerabilities.
  • Be wary of phishing attempts: Phishing is a common method used by attackers to trick you into revealing your personal information, such as your password or credit card number. Always double-check the sender and be wary of unsolicited communication asking for your personal information. Emails asking you for personally identifying information should be read carefully and identified independently from the email.

Adopting these practices can significantly reduce your risk of falling victim to a cyber-attack. Remember that no security measure is 100% foolproof, so it’s important to stay vigilant and be mindful of your digital habits.