Beyond Zeros and Ones: Cybersecurity

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We have all received email spam, some of which appears to be innocent at first glance. However, some of this spam poses potentially very costly problems.

Somehow our email addresses end up in the wrong hands and the influx of unwanted emails fills our inbox. This form of hacking has been around since the beginning of the internet and emails – but it has become much more sophisticated.

PATA was recently the victim of email spoofing where a person or persons unknown circulated emails that appeared to have originated from the Association with the subject line and signature looking legitimate. However, upon closer inspection, it was clear that this was someone impersonating employees at PATA. The emails had been sent from a Yahoo email address which PATA HQ does not use. Unfortunately, there were PATA members that took the emails at face value and responded in good faith.

It is estimated that the current value of cybercrime is worth in excess of US$445 billion (source: Bloomberg) and could reach US$2 trillion within the next decade. Forrester estimates that, by 2025, there will be over 75 billion connected devices in use around the globe. Everything will be connected -your TV, car, and even your washing machine! These are all devices that can leave you open to cyber attack.

Did you know that hackers can enter your home network and access your computer via your thermostat or your TV if they are connected to the web? Hackers can also remotely access the webcam on your TV and watch your every move. It is easy to do. Worryingly, there are websites that will teach you how to access any webcam globally in less than 10 minutes.

We all know the importance of a strong password. We are reminded about this every time we sign up for a new service. And yet the most popular password remains ‘Password 123’. A survey was conducted in the US and I invite you to watch the outcome yourself:

If you are still not convinced about the importance of a strong security password, talk to someone who had their identity stolen and about the nightmare of clearing their name and gaining back their identity.

How can you protect yourself? Firstly, make sure that you have a very strong password with more than eight characters using letters, numbers, symbols and a mix of capital letters. Change your password frequently (at least once a month) and do not use the same password for everything. There are many apps that help you to manage and create a strong password, such as 1Password and SplashID. Each password created by these apps is military grade protected.

Other methods to consider include purchasing a home personal firewall and using devices such as CUJO and Dojo-Labs that connect to your router and help to prevent unwanted access to your devices. Finally consider a VPN – especially if you frequently access unsecured public networks in airports, hotels and cafes. This helps you to protect your anonymity online and makes it more difficult to trace where you are connecting from and for others to access your devices.

If you run a small business, have a website or an online e-commerce presence it is critically important to ensure that your customer data is protected. Protecting your online business isn’t necessarily expensive as there are many service providers for small business owners such as Sucuri, McAfee Web Protection and Distill Network.

What I can say with certainty is that cyber criminals are getting smarter. The importance of protecting your online digital identity will grow exponentially with the increased number of connected devices we own and use. Don’t lose your identity to an online criminal. Invest today in measures that protect your identity and your assets.

To find out more about cybersecurity, you can also download PATA’s second edition of Issues & Trends in 2016, written by PATA Preferred Partner, Talent Basket or hear from Erick Stephens, CTO Asia, Microsoft Public Sector during the PATA Insights Lounge at the PATA Annual Summit 2017 in Negombo, Sri Lanka from May 18-21, 2017.

Till next time,
Mario Hardy
Chief Executive Officer
Pacific Asia Travel Association