A focus of the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Annual Meeting in Davos was on cyber security.
During the Annual Meeting, the WEF shared a report that claims, “91% of respondents said they believe a far-reaching and catastrophic cyber event is at least somewhat likely in the next two years.”
Now, I’m not the biggest fan of WEF or the unelected elites who run it, but even I must admit, that in this increasingly tech and AI world, we cannot ignore the high probability of these cyber attacks increasing and having a big one significant enough to send us into darkness.
Before you continue reading…take a second and think about all the devices you use that are connected to the internet.
Computers, mobile phones, e-readers, lights, Bluetooth speakers, etc.
Matthew Prince, the Cloudflare CEO is right, “As more things get connected to the internet, there's just more risk.”
As a result, not only is our personal information at risk, but also our national security.
During the WEF Annual Meeting, Sadie Creese, a Professor of Cyber Security at the University of Oxford predicted, “There's a gathering cyber storm. […] This storm is brewing, and it's really hard to anticipate just how bad that will be."
Let’s see what that storm may look like and what individuals can do to prepare.
The Latest News on Cyber Attacks
Norton, the Cyber Safety brand, released its predictions for 2023.
At the top of the list are cybercrimes associated with economic uncertainty.
According to Norton, “Expect a rise in financial-based scams such as assistance scams faking government assistance programs to steal Personal Identifiable Information (PII); shopping deal scams setting up fake e-shops promoting low-cost products to steal personal information or cash without delivering the order; and romance scams asking emotionally vulnerable consumers for money or gift cards.”
But it goes so much further than stealing people’s personal information. We’re talking about taking the grid down and monopolizing banks and government websites.
In the WEF Annual Meeting, Cloudflare (a cybersecurity firm) reported that cyber attacks specifically designed to disrupt a network or webpage “increased last year by 79% year-over-year.”
These types of cyber attacks are meant to cripple a company…. or a nation.
For example, Albania recently suffered a cyber attack that brought down infrastructure.
Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, says, “It’s about viruses that can not only block our way of living but can control it and deviate it. So it can use our systems like, God forbid, our air transport systems to hit us back. Imagine if there is a cyberattack on our air transport systems that turn a huge number of airplanes that are flying into bombs.”
Most believe that the new focus of cyber attacks will be on disrupting businesses and damaging reputations, such as using cyber attacks to influence politics, hinder government infrastructures, or take control of essentials like electric or water systems.
Cyber Attacks in 2023 So Far
We’re less than 2 months into 2023, and there have already been several large scale cyber attacks.
Just consider these headlines:
- “Maritime giant DNV says 1,000 ships affected by ransomware attack”
- “Royal Mail Export Chaos Has Businesses Fuming After Cyber Attack”
- “Israeli cybersecurity officials plan to help top university recover from reported breach”
- “Hackers interrupt Iranian president’s TV speech”
According to Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime will cost around $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.
Forbes adds, “It's likely that much of the forecasted $10 trillion in economic damage will be caused by smaller attacks, simply aimed at stealing or extorting money from businesses or individuals.”
In short, we should prepare for small, personal cyber attacks and large-scale cyber attacks.
How to Prepare for Large-Scale Cyber Attacks
The nature of cyber attacks is ever-changing.
There will come a day when a hacker comes after you individually. You’ve likely already received your fair share of phishing emails.
Likewise, there will come a day when cyber criminals attack an industry or service you depend on.
While you can take steps to prevent your personal information from being stolen by cybercriminals, you can’t prevent large scale cyber attacks.
That doesn’t mean you should just put your head in the sand.
Just the opposite.
If the WEF is correct, and we do experience a catastrophic cyber attack in the near future, we need to prepare for a major emergency.
Consider what the Prime Minister of Albania learned. Cybercriminals can cripple a nation.
Banks may shut down, the grid may go down, water systems may not be safe, and so on.
It could easily be like an apocalypse.
With that being said, preparing for cyber attacks starts with practicing emergency preparedness.
Consider all the basics of emergency preparedness for hurricanes, earthquakes, and power outages – and prepare the same way.
1. Invest in a Water Filtration System
One of the scarier cyber attacks recently was when a cyber criminal tried to poison a Florida city’s water supply.
The hacker gained access into their systems and upped the sodium hydroxide levels to dangerous levels.
Unfortunately, these types of cyber attacks on critical infrastructures, such as water treatment plants, are on the rise.
Given that public water systems can be attacked by cyber criminals, it is wise to consider investing in a water filtration system for your home.
2. Stock Up on Emergency Food
Emergency preparedness always involves stocking up on emergency food.
Just as you would stock up before a hurricane or keep a pantry full of non-perishables in the winter, you should have emergency food in case of a cyber attack.
As mentioned, a cyber attack may bring down critical infrastructure, such as the power grid or banking systems.
If either of these infrastructures were affected, you would be unable to purchase groceries.
3. Keep Your Tank Full
One of the first preparedness tips for any disaster is to always keep your gas tank full.
Just take a minute and remember what happened when cyber criminals attacked Colonial Pipeline last year.
Gas prices rose, and gas was hard to get.
Should a major cyber attack occur, getting gas will likely be an issue – even if it isn’t an attack on the gas pipeline.
For example, if the power grid goes down, gas stations will stop pumping, and credit card machines will stop working.
4. Have Cash on Hand
If the power grid goes down, the ATMs and credit card machines will stop working.
For this reason alone, you should always have some cash on hand.
We aren’t suggesting you need to keep all your cash hidden in your mattress like during The Great Depression.
We recognize the importance of putting your money in accounts where it can grow.
But, keep a little on hand for necessities should you face an extended power outage.
5. Have an Emergency Communication Plan
If there was a cyber attack that made it impossible to use your cell phone, how would you get in touch with your family members?
What if the internet went down across the nation?
Take time to write down your important contact information (name, phone numbers, and addresses), and discuss with one another how you would reach each other in the event of an emergency.
How to Prepare for Personal Small-Scale Cyber Attacks
While you can’t prevent cyber criminals in another country from hacking your banking institutions, you can take steps to protect yourself.
1. Protect Your Home Network
It starts at home.
Make sure you have locked up your home network and have made it as hard as possible for cybercriminals to access it. This means password-protecting your home Wi-Fi network and adding a VPN to your home router.
2. Protect Your PII
PII stands for Personally Identifiable Information, which includes data such as your full name, email address, mailing address, phone number, or social security number.
While we are focusing on large-scale cyber attacks, you still want to limit what you share online and through apps.
If a large-scale cyber attack hits a major online service provider, such as Facebook, what information could hackers gain about you?
3. Store Important Documents Carefully
It’s a good idea to keep hard copies of important documents (such as birth certificates, wills, etc.) in a fireproof, waterproof lock box.
If you do store important information online, be sure you use a secure cloud storage system that encrypts data and requires additional layers of protection to access the materials.
4. Set Up Multi-Factor Authentication
CISA Director Jen Easterly told Harvard Business Review that multi-factor authentication "makes you 99% less likely to get hacked."
Multi-factor authentication is a process that requires a second proof of I.D. in addition to your password, such as a one-time verification code that is sent via text message.
5. Check Accounts Regularly
A good way to know if you have been personally victimized is by checking your banking and investment statements regularly. You should also request a credit report.
Take note of anything that looks unfamiliar.
6. Stay Aware of the Threats
While you may not be able to prevent a cyber attack from happening, you should still do your best to stay aware of potential threats.
For example, if local news mentions a ransomware attack on a hospital you visited, pay attention to what the cyber criminals were after and how it may affect your personal records.
The FBI also released warnings about specific cyber attacks. Pay attention!
Practice cyber preparedness, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply