security predictions for 2017As important as it is to look back on the year that just ended, when it comes to cybersecurity, it’s even more important to look ahead. In late November 2016, Intel Security released its annual McAfee Labs Threats Predictions Report for 2017, which included numerous security predictions and warnings for those in the cybersecurity industry in the year to come. Although much of the content within these reports is geared toward IT professionals, they still contain plenty of information that the everyday consumer can use to their benefit. To help your year get off to a strong, secure start, here are three security predictions for 2017 that could affect you and what to do about them.

Ransomware won’t be a top threat forever

The prediction: While ransomware will remain a significant threat for the first half of the year, advances in antiransomware technology as well as the efforts of law enforcement and websites like No More Ransom! will reduce the volume and effectiveness of attacks by the end of 2017.

What it means for you: The impact of ransomware was arguably one of the biggest cybersecurity stories of 2016, as instances rose significantly over the past two years. Massive ransomware attacks, such as those on hospitals, schools and other large public networks pushed this cybercrime into the public eye. The good news is, as more people have become victims of ransomware in the past couple of years, security professionals have worked even harder to create tools and resources to help combat its effectiveness and spread.

What you can do about it: Keep in mind, just because ransomware is predicted to reduce in frequency, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to continue to be a threat. Businesses and everyday people alike should work on engaging in healthy security habits to protect themselves from all manner of cybercrime and identity theft. Simple things, such as never connecting your computer or mobile devices to public Wi-Fi networks or making sure to update your apps and software on a timely manner can be immensely helpful. If you do become a victim of ransomware, remember that you have options besides giving in to the cybercriminal’s demands.

We haven’t seen the last of IoT device exploitation

The prediction: Malware aimed at exploiting Internet of things devices like webcams, “smart” home devices and more will continue to open back doors into people’s homes — and much of it will go undetected for years to come.

What it means for you: If you already own one or more connected devices, especially those designed to be used in your home, there’s a chance it might already be infected. While the companies whose products were exploited in the massive DDoS attack that took down multiple websites last September issued recalls, there are unfortunately many more products that remain vulnerable. Some are on the shelves, some are already inside people’s homes, offices, vehicles and more.

What you can do about it: The best option for most people who own Internet-connected devices is to consider whether or not they truly need to be connected most or even all of the time. While it makes sense for some products, like your home security system, to remain online 24/7, other products simply don’t need to be constantly (or ever) connected. If you are able to disable the connection, do so unless you need to use it. In addition, make sure that your home Internet network is password-protected, and that you follow the same guidelines to create a strong password that you would for any important account. If there is an ability to add password protection or other security to your Internet-connected devices, take advantage of it.

Social engineering will grow in sophistication

The prediction: As computers continue to develop a greater capacity to learn, cybercriminals will use this to their advantage when targeting and trapping victims for their scams and attacks.

What it means for you: Social engineering — the use of deception to manipulate people into giving up critical information or access to their accounts — has been in practice by identity thieves and cybercriminals since the dawn of the Internet, and as technology has advanced for the greater good, it’s also advanced for the other side. Scientists are using machine learning to teach computers to write poetry, order your groceries and much more — but machine learning is also an asset for committing cybercrime. The use of machine learning, according to Intel Security, will help criminals target their victims easier and use more sophisticated ruses against them.

What you can do about it: Constant vigilance has never been more apt, especially in a world where we are inundated on a daily basis with emails, social media messages and more. It’s important to be on alert for attempted phishing attacks and pay attention when opening emails or accepting requests for contact on social media channels. If you receive messages from a friend that seem suspicious, don’t ignore your gut feeling. Double check requests for money, especially if they are purporting to come from your boss or someone else in your company. Now is also the time to strengthen your privacy settings to prevent strangers (and their computer programs) from learning enough about you to engineer a believable attack.

Protecting yourself online and offline is a year-round job, and while it can be easy to grow complacent to the dangers lurking around the corners of the Internet, it’s important to stay alert. Keep on top of the latest news in cybersecurity and identity theft by following our identity theft protection blog.