Digital attacks and data theft are on the rise. As a result, many businesses are growing increasingly concerned about the safety of their systems. But are preventative measures being put in the right places? Are companies right to fear AI, for example, or is it just misplacing paranoias? From malware and ransomware to Wi-Fi security breaches, it’s time to separate the fact from fiction in cybersecurity and data vulnerability.

Artificial Intelligence

A recent survey by Avast Business found that 46% of respondents had concerns about security problems with Artificial Intelligence, despite machine learning and predictive algorithms so far maintaining a positive track record in data use and protection. Current plans for further innovation include AI for the energy industry that can self-heal whole networks in the event of bugs and hacks, though at present this has yet to be perfected.

So why are we so afraid of this technology? Speculation in pop culture about the possibility of AI as an adversary to humanity seems a likely cause, but a more legitimate complaint is that nothing is unhackable – even the most intelligent artificial system could be open to attack. As such, AI will have to continue to prove itself as a safe and secure development for some time yet to put the fears and uncertainty to rest.


[clickToTweet tweet=”96% of respondents stated that they were concerned about #malware, #spyware and #ransomware, and of the remaining 4%, not one said that they had no concerns at all about these things #cybersecurity #cybercrime” quote=”In the same survey, 96% of respondents stated that they were concerned about malware, spyware and ransomware, and of the remaining 4%, not one said that they had no concerns at all about these things.”]

In this instance, people are right to be concerned. While only 57% cited their level of concern as ‘very worried’, data shows that ransomware attacks increased 6000% in 2016 and 50% of affected businesses had to pay hackers more than $10,000 (over £7,000) to get their data back. 20% spent more than $40,000 – around £30,000 – so here it is the businesses who aren’t so worried that need to rethink their concerns.

Ransomware hits a company every 40 seconds worldwide, with the overall cost of attacks continuing to grow. On top of a need for high-grade internet security software, businesses need to train their staff to recognise threats like these and have processes in place for dealing with them.

Mobile Security

91% of businesses surveyed cited concerns about mobile security – but research by CheckPoint has found that only 20% of enterprises have experienced a mobile breach. 94% of security professionals surveyed by CheckPoint said that they expect the frequency of mobile attacks to increase, though currently there’s no sign of a rapid increase to mimic that of malware and ransomware.

Businesses are wise to seek protection, all the same, encouraging individuals to install digital security software on their mobile devices just as they would on a desktop computer. Even things as simple as setting up automatic locking during periods of inactivity, and automated data wiping after multiple failed logins, can be the difference between data cybersecurity and a significant breach.

Wi-Fi Breaches

Though many individuals and businesses have concerns about Wi-Fi cybersecurity, it doesn’t stop 75% of people sharing data over unsecured networks – and 95% of millennials admit to sharing personal information over public Wi-Fi systems.

With a £30 antenna and the right software, a hacker sitting a mile away can steal passwords, emails and other data shared through unsecured networks like these in seconds, so failure to take threats seriously is no joke. Businesses are increasingly at risk from Wi-Fi cybersecurity breaches as employees access work-related files and sensitive data from personal devices or public networks, making this yet another area where business security should be stepped up in anticipation of increased attacks.

Use of unlimited data plans can negate the need to use public Wi-Fi altogether. Using SSL connections and VPNs can also help to reduce the chance of data theft.

“Virtual Private Networks allow individuals to safely, remotely access protected information stored in private networks or cloud applications – for example when working away from the office,” says Greg Mosher, Vice President of Product and Engineering at AVG Business by Avast. “The transmission of data between the device itself and the local unsecured Wi-Fi access point is made secure. This aids security anytime someone is accessing sensitive data and supplying their credentials, including cloud applications like Google docs or Salesforce.”

Corporate data theft: the figures

  • £9.2billion is lost to cyber-theft of IP and £7.6billion to cyber-espionage each year in the UK alone
  • 66% of small businesses have fallen victim to cybercrime, but 20% continue not to use computer cybersecurity software
  • Only 42% of ransomware victims can fully recover their data, even if they pay the ransom

While it’s no surprise that businesses of all sizes have fears about an array of potential cyber threats, what is surprising is that there is still such a lack of investment in defence systems and internet security. Hackers don’t discriminate: the last few years have seen system hacks affect everyone from the NHS to eBay, organisations we expect to have the highest levels of internet security. But, as the NHS data crisis showed us, it’s a lack of even basic IT security that is still leaving personal data exposed.

For those who remain complacent, disaster may be just around the corner. For those who wonder if their fears are misplaced, it should be clear that now more than ever, severe security measures that can keep up with changing technologies need to be implemented across the board.

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