The world we live in is becoming more reliant upon software updates and computer networks every single day. In an extraordinary fashion, digital communication can be viewed as the framework for how an organization is managed and maintained no matter how large or small.

Along with the massive strides we have taken down the digital technology path, cybercriminals have been keeping pace with an even more alarming number of cybercrimes being committed every second.

Despite efforts to protect the internet world from these attacks — from regularly changing passwords  to increased WAN optimization — there was an alarming 42% increase in cyber attacks from 2011 to 2012. Many wonder what we should be keeping our eyes open for in the future. Here are some of the threats you and your company may be facing.

1. Ransomware. One of the biggest increases in cybercrime relates to ransomware, where a computer is locked down and a fee is demanded in exchange for releasing it. Some of the largest targets of this tactic included small businesses, with over $5,000,000 being extorted every single year.

2. Malware. There was a slight decrease in the number of emails sent out containing a virus, with estimates being given that one out of every 291 emails were infected.

However, there have been reports of a new type of long-term stealthy malware that can covertly send out spam messages and create bogus clicks on webpages.

3. Phishing. Another decline was the number of phishing emails that were sent out to users that requested personal information such as credit cards, birthdates or Social Security numbers.

However, overall phishing numbers dramatically increased, mainly in the realm of social media, with false sites being created for the same deceptive purpose. Phishing rates depicting fake social media sites went up by 123% in 2012.

4. Social Media. With social media continuing to boom across the globe, cybercriminals have targeted users of these networks. Tactics such as offering fake products, manual sharing, likejacking, and installing a fake plug-in were some of the most common ways they gained access to data on social media sites.

Scammers have now shifted their focus to some of the more popular and new social networking sites such as Instagram, Pinterest and Foursquare.

5. Malvertising. One of the most covert tools that hackers have utilized is malvertising, where they compromise a website directly without having to hack into the site’s coding itself.

Flying under the radar with infections that normal antivirus software is unable to detect has made malvertising one of the more deceptive tools for hackers to use.

We live in a world governed by the electronic devices that are interconnected on the World Wide Web. Web-based attacks increased by 30% in 2012, an astounding jump since 2011. Some of the most pursued information on the Web included customer data, bank account information and intellectual property.

The increase in attacks in 2012 raised questions as to who were some of the most targeted entities. From a business standpoint, manufacturing, finance, insurance, real estate, energy/utilities and non-traditional services were some of the most vulnerable industries attacked in 2012.

A more distressing statistic was that small businesses were some of the most targeted industries in the entire nation, with businesses employing 250 people or less being the victim of 31% of the attacks.

It is important to keep an eye out on your own personal network and on the networks of employees. With hacking tools such as ransomware, phishing, and malvertising being adjusted and improved to steal your data, it is necessary to use the tools and defense systems which are designed to protect you online.

Post contributed by Robert Cordray, a freelance writer and expert in business and marketing. With over 20 years of startup experience, Robert is now retired and hopes others can benefit from his writing.

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