A VPN might seem to some a luxury purchase, yet all available information indicates that it is an essential piece of technology for people living in the 21st century. There has been a proliferation of cybercrime during the past decade and this trend is going to accelerate, not reverse.
The reality is that security administrators and IT professionals are overwhelmed and it is very much a hackers environment right now, with sophisticated heists taking place all over the globe.
Hacking Stats Revealed
The increase in cybercrime is no secret, though the extent and nature of the crimes themselves are more extensive than is commonly believed. Here is a quick list of some of the more recent cybersecurity statistics –
- Cybercrime cost $600 billion in 2017. It is a low-cost crime with a massive payoff. Nearly 66% of people who use online services have had their data stolen – 2 billion people. Ransomware experienced a 900% increase from 2015-2016 (McAffee and CSIS 2018)
- Cybercrime is expected to cost the globe over $6 Trillion by 2021. The figure stands at $3 Trillion as of 2015 (Cyber Security Ventures).
- Crypto jacking underwent an 8,500% increase in 2017, in tandem with the rise of cryptocurrencies. Cybercriminals use the host PC to mine these currencies unbeknownst to the user until a large electricity bill comes in (Symantec).
- Security resources are stretched too thin and unique exploitations are on the rise with more innovative attack vectors. Content management systems continue to be exploited with Windows a prime target and unpatched vulnerabilities also prone to attack (Fortinet Cyber Security Study 2018).
- 111 Billion lines of software code are being created every year. Self-driving cars and an influx of new devices all need to be protected. The amount and diversity of internet-ready devices are growing far faster than security protocols (Cyber Security Ventures)
- There is a large and growing risk of a shortage of cybersecurity specialists to deal with the epidemic. Currently, the shortage is estimated to be 3 million (ISC).
- Globally, cybercrime was the second most commonly reported crime in 2016 (PWC)
Aside from the general increase in cybercrime, there have abeen a large number of high-profile scandals involving large corporations and government entities as both victims and perpetrators of cyber attacks. The following list is a brief list of the more well-known public scandals –
- The largest scandal in history is generally attributed to Yahoo, with 3 billion hacked accounts. It also owned Tumblr, where 65 million accounts were hacked. The estimates on this one vary, and it actually endured two major breaches (CSO Online)
- Marriott Hotel was hacked with the personal information of over 500 million guests compromised. The hack took place between 2014 and 2018 (Quartz)
- Over 50 Million Facebook accounts were hacked in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where a third party ran analytics on private customer data (The Guardian)
- In July 2017, Equifax was hacked with over 145 million vulnerable accounts. Equifax is a credit agency so hackers could gain access to particularly sensitive information such as names, social security numbers, credit card numbers, address, marital status, and driving licenses (CBS News)
- AT&T let the NSA use its infrastructure to listen in on personal phone calls, Skype calls, messages etc. It tapped the worlds internet connection and listened to international traffic. Especially shocking to the public was that it was not merely a large conglomerate (distrusted by most) but an arm of the national government (The Intercept)
- Over 50 Terabytes (i.e. a lot) of data was stolen from an NSA database. The NSA contractor stole the data over a 20-year period and other contractors such as Edward Snowden have taken classified documents out of NSA facilities on numerous occasions (Wired)
- Over 100 million LinkedIn accounts were hacked during 2012. What is interesting about this hack is that the passwords and associated email addresses went up for public sale by an actor named ‘Peace” in 2017 (Tech Crunch)
The list of scandals is too vast to outline, but other notable companies that have been compromised include J.P Morgan Chase, eBay, Adult Friend Finder, Heartland Payment System, Uber, and the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
Ironically, it seems to be a grand circle. Corporations steal customer data, governments spy on citizens, and rogue cybercriminals hack governments and corporations in response. Meanwhile, average consumers are stuck in the middle having all of their information tracked across web platforms and devices, vulnerable to companies, government departments, and individual rogues.
The sophisticated means through which online tracking takes place is not widely known to the public. If it was, VPN sales would skyrocket, the only answer to online tracking.
Why You Need a VPN
Given the extent of the scandals outlined above, a VPN is a very natural choice and the only real way to ensure that your data is protected. There are additional steps that can be taken to ensure online security. Two Factor Authentication is an essential component of cybersecurity and should be enforced as much as possible. Password managers are useful tools so you can have a diverse range of strong passwords across various sites.
But you really need a VPN so your location is not tracked and your interactions are encrypted. Your data is being actively collected and sold. If you are not obscuring your online activity with a good VPN provider then your data is being harvested for profit. 2FA and password managers do not do this. They prevent hackers, but not corporate or government agencies who are more efficient at collecting data.
Corporations aside, an influx of new devices and operating systems have made it impossible to standardize procedures in terms of security protocols. Put simply, cybercriminals are too numerous and there are too many vulnerabilities. There is no internet police for the various networks you access on your device, and the first point of defense is a good VPN provider. With the rise of the internet of things, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality, a VPN is going to become an absolute necessity as the first line of defense during the 21st century.