6 Ways Your Privacy and Security Were Threatened in 2022

As our reliance on technology increases, our trust in technology increases with it. Today, we entrust our private data to various online platforms, such as banking accounts, e-commerce retailers, cryptocurrency exchanges, and email providers. But our privacy continues to be put at risk in various ways too. So, let’s discuss how your privacy could have been made vulnerable in 2022.

1. Spyware

Spyware is a kind of malware used to monitor a victim’s activity and access their private data. If a cybercriminal manages to use spyware on a long-term basis on a victim’s device, there’s no end to how much data they could get their hands on.

Using spyware, a threat actor can log keystrokes, meaning they can see everything you type, be it search engine inputs, text messages, or payment information. Of course, this hugely exposes your privacy, as you may unknowingly be handing over highly sensitive information to the attacker.

There are many kinds of spyware out there right now for criminals to use, including CloudMensis, CoolWebSearch, HawkEye, and Pegasus. Pegasus is a common form of spyware, and was created not by a criminal, but by the NSO, an Israeli cybersecurity company. The NSO states that Pegasus is solely used for counterterrorism and law enforcement, and is therefore only sold to legitimate parties. But this has been contested, as there have been numerous cases of Pegasus misuse in the past.

2. Dark Web Marketplaces

Dark shadows behind code numbers

If a malicious actor gets their hands on your data, they won’t always directly exploit it. Sometimes, they’ll pass it on to other cybercriminals via dark web marketplaces. Think of tese marketplaces as a kind of eBay for stolen data. Criminals are willing to pay a hefty amount for sensitive information that they can exploit, such as passport numbers, payment card details, email addresses, and social security numbers.

Let’s say an attacker managed to grab your credit card information. On the dark web, this could be a hot commodity, especially if certain additional information, such as the CVV, is also provided. The cybercriminal can set the price even higher if they know that the bank account linked to this card holds a significant sum.

This kind of information often comes from large-scale breaches, such as the breach of WhatsApp that resulted in the attempted sale of almost 500 million data records. This data, collected from users in 84 countries, put almost half a billion people at risk, with their smartphone numbers being made available to dangerous cybercriminals.

3. Malicious Ads

translucent sale icon in front of hazard symbol on laptop

The digital advertising industry is worth over $600 billion, according to Oberlo. Many of the apps and sites you enjoy using display advertisements, but this budding marketplace has also provided a niche for cybercriminals in the form of malicious ads.

The use of malicious ads is also known as malvertising and involves the insertion of malicious code into seemingly harmless advertisements. Such ads can even make their way onto legitimate websites, expanding their reach even further. This means that you may come across a malicious ad even when using a reputable platform. If you interact with them, you stand the risk of being infected with malware.

But it can be very difficult to differentiate between benign and harmful ads, which makes malvertising a significant threat to privacy and security.

4. Phishing

A Hook Fetching Login Details From a Laptop

Phishing is a hugely prevalent cyber threat that’s claimed millions of victims. Phishing can be carried out on a wide scale and doesn’t take an awful lot of technical expertise. If you use an email provider, chances are you’ve been sent a phishing email at some point, especially if you don’t use anti-spam tools.

In a phishing attack, the cybercriminal impersonates a legitimate party to trick victims into divulging sensitive information. Phishing communications usually come with a link leading to a malicious webpage that logs the keystrokes of victims. However, the attacker will simply state that this is a harmless page that the user needs to open in order to complete a certain action, such as logging into an account or entering a giveaway.

Let’s say, for instance, that you receive an email from Facebook stating that you need to log into your account to verify your identity, check for suspicious activity, or respond to a report from another user. This email will likely instill a sense of urgency to further persuade you to take action. You’ll be provided with a link to the relevant webpage, likely an alleged Facebook login page.

On this page, you’ll need to enter your login credentials. But because this webpage is, in reality, malicious, the attacker will be able to see your credentials when you enter them. Once they get a hold of your credentials, they can access your Facebook account.

APWG, an anti-fraud and anti-identity theft firm, stated in its Phishing Activity Trends Report that 1,025,968 phishing instances were recorded in the first quarter of 2022 alone.

5. Cloud Storage Vulnerabilities

cloud and network symbols on top of hand

Cloud storage platforms, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive, are commonly used as an alternative to hardware storage options as they’re simply more convenient. What’s more, you can access your cloud storage anywhere at any time with your login details, meaning you don’t have to rely on a single device to view and use your data.

But cloud storage platforms are vulnerable to remote attacks, as they rely on software to function. Though cloud storage providers use various security layers to protect your data, they are still being targeted by cybercriminals. After all, any platform with an internet connection stands the risk of being hacked, and cloud storage services are no exception.

Take Dropbox, for example. This cloud storage provider suffered a data breach in late 2022 as the result of a phishing attack. Through this hack, 130 GitHub repositories were stolen. But such attacks could also result in the theft of private user data, such as banking documents and healthcare records. If a given cloud storage platform has a particularly dangerous security vulnerability, then a hack could be made somewhat easy for cybercriminals.

6. IoT Attacks

iphone being held in hand

IoT, or Internet of Things, refers to hardware equipped with software, sensors, and other tools that allow for communication with other devices. But this technology is being targeted by cybercriminals looking for private data.

If such a device, such as a smartphone or smartwatch, is infected with malware, then the IoT system it is connected to can be compromised to send or receive data. Hackers can carry out IoT attacks in a number of ways, including via eavesdropping, brute force password attacks, and physical device tampering. Older IoT devices are often made targets for attacks, as their security measures are usually lacking or require updates.

Smart devices are incredibly commonplace, making IoT attacks even more likely now than they were in the past.

Your Digital Privacy Needs to be Protected

It’s easy to assume that no one is going to target your private data, but this simply isn’t the case. Any average individual can fall victim to a cyberattack, be it through phishing, malvertising, spyware, or anything else. So, as we head into 2023, it’s paramount that we employ all the security measures necessary to protect our data from malicious entities.

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