'The major worry for everyone using Internet-linked devices today is whether the latest download on his smartphone or laptop is a bait from a digital hacker who is out to secure access to his hard-earned money,' notes T A Ramalingam, chief technical officer, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance.
We live in an era of hyper-connectivity which allows us to share information across a wide variety of devices.
While offering many advantages, this state of existence has its flip side too.
Earlier generations lived in fear of their wallets being stolen from their pockets.
We live in perpetual fear of our banking details and other personal data stored online being stolen, hacked, damaged, or erased.
The biggest nightmare for an individual in this digital age is to see an unauthorised debit in his bank account and realise he has been a victim of an online fraud.
Digital criminals are out to rob people via spoof SMS, phishing links, fake IDs, forged online identities, and so on.
The armoury of cyber weapons at their command are many and varied.
India has emerged as the third-most vulnerable country in terms of exposure to cyber threats, such as malware, spam, and ransomware, according to a report by global security firm Symantec.
It is estimated that the WannaCry attack alone affected around 48,000 systems throughout the country.
It served as a major wake up call to users on the growing risks posed by cyber threats.
The major worry for everyone using Internet-linked devices today is whether the latest download on his smartphone or laptop is a bait from a digital hacker who is out to secure access to his hard-earned money.
According to a recent report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India, there were 504 million active internet users in India in November 2019.
This number is expected to reach 650 million by 2023.
Increased use of technology has exposed organisations and individual users to advanced cyber-risks that they are often poorly prepared to defend themselves against.
Most banking transactions are conducted online today.
A lot of personal information is also available online and on social media Web sites which can be misused by hackers.
Today, cybercriminals are working overtime to develop, hack and deliver persistent and new attacks that target vulnerable systems.
If organisations and individuals want to protect their networks and data from this onslaught, it is essential that they begin to firm up more well thought out security strategies.
Strong cyber security practices at home and at work have become more important than ever.
As employers and individuals navigate the rapidly evolving cyber risk landscape, here are a few basic guidelines they should keep in mind.
Deploy security tools
When connecting to or storing sensitive data on personal devices, within applications, or on your network, it is important that you have security tools in place.
These tools will be able to detect and deter malware and cyber criminals.
In case of home networks, this often means using a firewall and encryption.
Maintain an active and strong anti-virus in the computer system that can detect all kinds of irregularities.
A firewall ensures that malicious traffic from compromised devices, applications, or websites that tries to enter your network is detected and stopped.
A lot of people are unable to resist the lure of using free public Wi-Fi.
As far as possible, doing so should be avoided as it poses substantial risk both to your device and to network security.
Exercise care while browsing
Cyber criminals often try to scam their way into networks through phishing attacks or malicious e-mails that pose as legitimate communications.
To ensure security, restrain yourself from clicking on any link or advertisement from unknown sources.
Similarly, do not click on unknown pop-up windows.
Also avoid downloading any item from an unknown website.
Avoid registering your email ID at unknown and obscure websites.
Do not open emails that have come to you from unauthenticated sources.
Always look out for https:// to ensure that the website you are on is a genuine one.
Maintain strong passwords
On every platform that you use, keep a strong password, preferably one that has an alpha-numeric combination and contains special characters.
Reusing the same password across multiple accounts makes you susceptible to account takeover or credential stuffing attacks.
If your password becomes compromised on one site, you become vulnerable on all the other sites where you use the same password.
Do not disclose your passwords to any other person.
Buy adequate cover
Despite the best preventive measures, you could still fall prey to hackers who are turning increasingly sophisticated with each passing day.
Therefore, buying a cyber-insurance cover has become a necessity.
A comprehensive cyber insurance cover provides the buyer protection against a variety of cyber risks such as identity theft, malware attack, IT theft loss, cyber extortion, cyber stalking, etc.
This policy covers financial loss resulting from being the victim of e-mail spoofing and phishing.
Losses and expenses related to defence and prosecution cost related to identity theft, IT theft loss, and restoration cost incurred on retrieving or reinstalling data or a computer programme damaged by the entry of a malware is also covered.
It provides coverage for expenses incurred on counselling services, claim for damages against third party for privacy breach and data breach, and transportation for attending Court summons.
As we move into a digital economy, where data and connectivity are highly valuable resources, ensuring cyber security by conscientiously following security guidelines has become imperative.
In addition, purchasing a comprehensive cyber insurance cover will also help mitigate the growing risk of cyber compromise.
It will ensure that you are financially well protected against cyber-attacks and can browse, surf, and transact on the Internet without undue stress.
Production: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com