In today’s Fat Tail Daily, we look at the cyber security realm and see why it’s a problem you will hear about more often and what you can do to secure yourself.
Last week, we discussed the threats to banking and bank runs.
If you missed that article, then here it is. The short summary is that the new age of rapid communications and digital banking has opened the door to lightning-fast bank runs.
But we intentionally skipped over an important part that I felt required its own time in the sun.
It’s been making waves in the news lately, and it’s something that requires action from our readers to safeguard against.
It’s a growing cyber threat in Australia.
You might think this stuff is all high-tech and complicated, but stick with me — I’ll break it down so it’s easy to grasp.
The rising tide of cyber attacks
First off, let’s acknowledge that cyber-attacks aren’t just a plot in a spy movie anymore. They’re real and happening more often than we’d like.
In 2023, Australia has been seeing a surge in these digital threats. From big businesses to the government, no one’s immune.
Just in the past week, we saw the major hack of stevedore DP World Australia grind shipping to a halt in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth.
In the past financial year, we also saw huge cyber breaches of Optus and Medibank, spilling the confidential data of millions of customers.
In total, more than 1,100 major incidents between 2022–23 required the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) to step in.
Source: ASD Cyber Threat Report 2023
Why Australia, you ask?
Australia is a prime target for several reasons. It’s not just about the money, although that’s a big part.
Our country’s political stance and global position also make it a target for hackers. The ASD released a report this year highlighting China’s increasing attacks on our government.
Plus, with our increasing reliance on technology, we’ve got more digital doors for these cyber crooks to try and open.
Now, who’s behind these attacks? A mix of actors. You’ve got your state-sponsored hackers — think of them as digital spies working for other countries.
Then, there are cybercriminals chasing after a quick buck. And let’s not forget the hacktivists, who hack for a cause, whether we agree with it or not.
Types of cyber threats
Understanding the types of threats out there helps us stay a step ahead. Let’s break down the main ones:
- Phishing Scams: This old trick still works. You get an email or message that looks normal, asking for your personal info. Next thing you know, your data’s in the wrong hands.
- Ransomware: Imagine your computer getting locked up, and you’re asked to pay to get your data back. It’s like a digital kidnapping of your files.
- Data Breaches: This is when confidential info gets leaked or stolen. Think about your personal details, credit card numbers, all your sensitive stuff.
- DDoS Attacks: This is about overwhelming a website or service with so much traffic that it crashes. It’s like a digital traffic jam blocking the road.
How it affects you and me
These cyber threats aren’t just a problem for the big players. They trickle down to the rest of us. If a bank gets hit, that impacts our finances. If a hospital’s systems are compromised, it could delay crucial medical care. It’s a domino effect.
From a financial standpoint, cyber attacks can be a nightmare. They can drain bank accounts, ruin credit scores, and cause a mess in our day-to-day lives.
The cost of recovering from a cyber attack can run into the millions for businesses. For Australian companies, the cost of breaches rises every year.
Source: ASD Cyber Threat Report 2023
The good news is Australia’s not sitting on its hands. The government and companies are pumping money and resources into beefing up their cyber defences.
The most significant progress has been a project known as Redspice. It’s the single largest investment into the Australian Signals Directorate in its 75 years.
They plan to hire 1,900 employees and expand their capabilities through partnerships with private firms.
While there has been some progress, it doesn’t mean you can relax just yet.
How to protect yourself
You don’t need to be a tech whiz to protect yourself. Here are some simple tips:
- Be Sceptical: If an email or message looks fishy, it probably is. Don’t click on links or attachments from unknown sources.
- Update Your Software: Those annoying update notifications? They’re actually important for security. Keep your software up to date.
- Use Strong Passwords: And change them regularly. If your password is on this list, it will be broken in less than a second. Don’t use the same password for everything.
- Back-Up Your Data: Regularly back-up your essential files. If you’re hit by ransomware, you won’t be at a total loss.
- Consider using a password manager: These will help you save your passwords. They will even generate random passwords so that all your passwords are unique.
That last one is the main thing I would recommend for you today to change in your daily life. It may seem like a pain at first, but trust me, it will save you in the long run.
The password manager I would recommend is BitWarden.
It’s open source, so there is no funny business behind the scenes with your data. It’s also audited by third-party security firms. And lastly, it’s free!
Even if they hack Bitwarden, the system stores only encrypted data, so your keys are safe on your local device.
[Please note, we have no affiliation with BitWarden.]
Once you have a manager set up, you’ll only have to remember one password, which will unlock the rest.
Most security flaws come from people using the same password across all their logins. I get why, having to remember passwords can be a pain. But so is constantly resetting passwords you forget.
With a manager, you only have to set up one strong password, and then that’s the only one you’ll ever have to remember again.
Here is a good beginner’s guide to setting up. It’s 30 minutes of your time that will save you in the long run.
Keep a sceptical eye out
As we move forward, staying informed and vigilant is key. Cyber threats are evolving, but so are our defences.
By understanding the risks and taking simple steps to protect ourselves, we can protect our information and bank accounts.
In 2023, cyber threats in Australia are a reality we can’t ignore. But it’s not all doom and gloom.
With the right knowledge and precautions, we can safeguard our digital lives. Remember, in the cyber world, a little caution goes a long way.
Editor, Fat Tail Daily