Cyberattacks have been a growing problem for years, while increasingly becoming more sophisticated and large-scale in scope. Crooks will still try to come after you individually through malicious messages that are becoming more difficult to spot, but a lot of groups are going after bigger paydays by targeting businesses and even major cities.
For instance, hackers took control of Baltimore's city government servers with ransomware a few weeks ago and many of their services remain at a standstill. It's not just a problem for the city, however.
You might not realize that cyberattacks can still be a big problem for you, even if you don't personally fall victim. What's happening to these companies and governments is snowballing and could end up putting a strain on your own bank account or sensitive data.
Cost of ransomware
One of the most popular types of attacks is ransomware, and it's become big business. Just look at the WannaCry attack from 2017 that impacted about 200,000 computers in 150 countries, and raked in potentially billions of dollars.
Money is all the motivation hackers need to keep upping their game. A recent report by cybersecurity firm MalwareBytes says ransomware attacks have risen 500% so far in 2019 when compared to a year ago. Think about that - it's not even June.
For organizations, it's meet demands or spend potentially months trying to rebuild. And if you don't pay to get your data back, someone else is bound to ... and the cycle continues.
Consequences of cyberattacks on you
The FBI says don't pay up in ransomware attacks, and that's what the city of Baltimore has decided by refusing to give in to hackers' 13 Bitcoin demand (roughly $115,000). That's why they're still in the same situation weeks later.
It's a major issue not only for city officials but also for Baltimore residents who still can't make online payments through various city departments. It goes deeper than that according to a recent report by CNBC, including other unforeseen problems for individuals.
For instance, there's been a big impact on people trying to buy and sell homes. That's because city offices need to perform routine but important tasks like pulling home titles and checking for liens or unpaid water bills during real estate deals. They can't, so some people are in limbo until the issue is resolved. Home sales have even been canceled because of it.
Note: A New York Times report now says the Baltimore attack was the result of a hacking exploit code-named EternalBlue, a tool that was originally developed by the U.S. National Security Agency and stolen. It was also used in other attacks, like WannaCry and NotPetya.
On May 7, the same day Baltimore's troubles began, a different cyberattack targeted accounting software firm Wolters Kluwer. Malware ended up shutting off service to accountants who use the firm's service, meaning they couldn't file their clients (non-profit organizations) tax returns before the May 15 deadline. It was so bad, the IRS extended the deadline for a week.
Protecting yourself from indirect cybercrime
No matter what type of malware is used against these organizations, your data and finances are often at risk. Attacks on businesses, like your employer, could impact your paycheck or open your personal information up to identity theft.
Although attacks on governments and companies are out of your control, you can mitigate the potential damage while also protecting yourself against methods like phishing and other ransomware attacks.
For instance, be cautious before clicking on any attachment or link. Also, set up two-factor authentication with all accounts that offers it as an extra layer of protection. Click or tap here to learn how.
Use unique, sophisticated passwords on every account. We've got tips to help you come up with secure passwords here.
And back up your critical files regularly. With our sponsor, IDrive, you can back up all your PCs, Macs and mobile devices into ONE account for one low cost! Save 50% on 2 TB of cloud backup now! That's less than $35 for the first year!
Protect yourself on every device that's connected to the internet
How many computers and mobile devices are under your roof? It's not just one computer anymore, and many homes are filled with all kinds of connected gadgets - that cybercriminals are always targeting.