Recommended + Security & Privacy
2015 Top Security Threats: Data Breaches, Smartphones and Privacy
Posted on December 21st, 2015 by Derek Erwin
Reflecting on the security and privacy landscape of 2015, three trends stand out: there are more users, more data, and more devices than ever before, resulting in an exponential growth of threats and vulnerabilities. Furthermore, the commonly held viewpoint that Mac OS X users are immune to attacks is fading—and that’s a good thing, because it means better security protocols are being implemented.
In recent years, Apple’s share of the PC market has grown significantly. As OS X continues to increase in popularity, Mac malware is becoming more common, sophisticated, and far more stealthy than ever. In 2015, it’s safe to say that OS X is no longer the bastion of impenetrable safety that it was once perceived to be.
As was the case in 2014, data breaches—including espionage and exposure of corporate and consumer data—was a primary theme this past year. Smart device use has also seen incredible growth among adults and children, resulting in massive increases in personal data, which tends to end up in the cloud. And finally, the increasing popularity of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) means new threats are emerging as cybercriminals seek to compromise our security and privacy on all fronts.
Here is a look at the top three security threats of 2015:
1. Data Breaches
Data breaches were the most prevalent threat in 2015. Hackers are targeting not just businesses and consumers, but kids too—and not all hackers are after profit, as was the case with the Ashley Madison hack. Here are a few of the biggest data breaches in 2015:
- VTech data breach—exposed data on millions of adults and children, including photos and other personal information; poor encryption named as the culprit.
- Ashley Madison—most sensationalized hack due to the public shaming and outing of the public at large.
- U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data breach—the biggest government hack ever, made possible by a lack of internal expertise and outdated security protocols.
- Anthem breach—the largest number of records compromised in a healthcare network; poor password security named as the culprit.
2. Smart Devices
Smart device use is growing exponentially, creating controversy for families as well as opening up new risks for businesses.
Children are being given more leeway to access the Internet on both iPhones and iPads. As a result, the following issues have become a greater concern for parents:
- Screen time—too much of it has become a distraction. Even celebrities have come out urging parents to limit screen time.
- Bullying evolved—inappropriate online behavior resulting in scandals and predation.
- App and in app purchases—without proper controls to curb in-app purchases, parents are experiencing unexpected expenses.
Businesses are also dealing with more and more BYOD in the workplace, opening up the number weak links to access sensitive data. In 2015, BYOD statistics show that 74% of organizations are either already using or plan to adopt BYOD use. In terms of company size, those with 50 to 249 employees were the most likely to use personal devices at work. The result is an increase in wink security links, including:
- Outdated security policies—as the threat landscape changes, lack of time and resources do not allow for proper security measures to protect business networks.
- Lack of educuation—employees’ lack of proper security hygiene opens the gap even wider.
- The Internet of Things—more connected devices also increases the number of weak links.
- Poor password hygiene—using the same password across all devices puts businesses at risk and, in turn, affects consumers whose data was stolen.
3. Data Privacy
Data privacy is a growing threat stemming from the Internet of Things, where just about everything you own is or will be connected together. This not only opens up concerns about security weak links—presenting new opportunities for cybercriminals to compromise our security and privacy—but lack of privacy for both adults and children.
- Unchecked surveillance—schools gathering behavioral information about children to create data profiles—all without parents’ consent.
- Convenience trumps privacy—adults and children who freely give away personal information as a compromise for convenience.
- Big Data—information gathering of personal data that is bought and sold without consumer knowledge or consent.
All this points out an important fact: no matter what operating system you have and no matter how small or large your business is, security is no longer “nice to have,” but is a must-have tool in your arsenal. While no one solution is 100% perfect, here are four essential actions you can take right now to protect your data and your Mac:
- Implement a layered approach to security: there are a variety of threats targeting you nowadays, and while anti-virus can stop malicious files, it’s not enough to prevent the other worries from filtering through and ruining your stuff.
- Regularly update your passwords: frequently changing your password using special characters and a combination of upper and lower case characters significantly reduces the chance that hackers will figure out your password.
- Stay informed: go to our sidebar and sign up for our Mac Security Newsletter!
- Scan your Mac for potential viruses and malware using trusted Mac anti-virus software: Intego VirusBarrier will eradicate all known-malware and even prevent infection of iOS devices.