Cyber Crime Tops The List of Threats To The United States

Cyber was at the top of the list of worldwide threats at a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Feb. 13, 2018. Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, discussed a cyber war that nations, organizations and sometimes individuals are fighting against the United States, stating that the nation faces a complex, volatile and challenging threat environment with the risk of interstate conflict higher than it has been since the end of the Cold War.

Reasons Cyber is Considered a Top Threat

Coats said adversaries try to use cyber attacks to divide the United States and weaken its leadership. The countries that pose the largest cyber threats are Russia, Iran, China and North Korea, according to Coats, and each of those countries has the intent to degrade our democratic values and weaken our alliances.

During the intelligence hearing, the director described the types of threats by country as well as the reasons for them. For example, China has historically used cyberattacks to support its national security and economic priorities. Iran has tried and will continue to try, to penetrate U.S. and allied networks for espionage and lay a foundation for future cyber attacks. North Korea will continue to use cyber to raise funds, gather intelligence and launch attacks against the United States.

Coats also stated that the United States, along with its European allies, should expect persistent and disruptive cyber operations to continue against them. In the United States, this includes businesses as well as federal, state and local governments.

Cyber Criminals Stole Almost $20 Billion from U.S. Consumers in 2017

These issues are not just affecting our Federal Government. According to Symantec’s 2017 Norton Cyber Security Insights Report, more than one-half of the adult internet population in the United States was affected by some form of virus, malware, spyware or phishing scam in 2017. That accounts for roughly 143 million Americans. From those attacks, consumers lost $19.4 billion, and the average cybercrime victim spent 23.6 hours dealing with the aftermath.

Many of the crimes resulted from consumers making basic security mistakes. For example, 60 percent of victims made the mistake of sharing at least one of their passwords for their online accounts or devices with another person. Another cyber mistake was using a single password across multiple online accounts, which is something 24 percent of U.S. consumers made the mistake of doing, according to the survey.

The group of U.S. consumers with the best password management was the baby-boomer generation, with 69 percent ensuring they used a different password for each online account. However, 24 percent of them made the mistake of writing down their passwords on a piece of paper.

Prevention is Key

Symantec recommends following these basic cybersecurity best practices to ensure safety online:

  • Change your passwords every few months.
  • Don’t use the same passwords for multiple accounts.
  • Don’t share your passwords.
  • Use an anti-virus program.
  • Use due diligence when opening emails, clicking on links or downloading attachments online.

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