Internet Security Threats Other Than Cyber-Attacks

Cyber-attacks have been on the rise and it has negatively affected many big companies. TalkTalk is one of the recent victims whereby personal data of about 4 million of its customers was stolen. However, studies were conducted regarding online security and the results showed that there is a bigger risk to online security apart from cyber crime.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to conduct a survey on incidents of cyber security across companies in the UK. The survey was aimed at creating awareness among UK businesses of the risks and key trends. PwC released a report which showed that security breaches that are staff related has risen to 75%. The previous year, only 58% of large companies were affected. Small businesses were not left out as 31% also suffered security breaches that were staff related. This is an increase from the previous year where only 22% of small businesses were affected.

Businesses that took part in the survey were questioned about the worst breach they had suffered and 50% of them said their worst breaches were caused by human error. This is an increase from the 31% that was recorded the previous year. The cost of these incidents has also doubled causing some to change the nature of their businesses. The report also stated that incidents of human error were “near certainty.” They advised businesses to ensure their defenses kept pace with the Internet security threats.

Cyber Attack
Apart from PwC, CheckRecipient also conducted its own research. CheckRecipient is a cyber security company and it works with law firms in the UK to ensure sensitive information is not emailed to the wrong person. The report showed that in 2014, 9% of the data security incidents reported was as a result of human error. This is higher than intentional cyber espionage that accounts for 0.8% of the data security incidents. The CEO of CheckRecipient, Tim Sadler, was surprised that not much attention was being given to the inside Internet security threat faced by most companies.

Security breaches caused by human error can be categorized into 3 parts and PwC reported on how each part was affected. They include:

1.Breach of laws and regulations that govern data protection. In 2014, 45% of such incidents occurred while in 2015, the incidents increased to 57%.

2.Unauthorized access to systems or data. 57% of such incidents occurred in 2014 but in 2015, they rose to 65%.

3.Loss or leakage of financial information. These incidents rose from 55% in 2014 to 66% in 2015.

Morrisons is one of the companies that suffered an incident related to personal data loss of its customers. Andrew Skelton who was a senior internal auditor in the head office at Bradford, received discipline for conducting eBay deals using the company’s postroom. Due to this, he got through company controls, obtained and leaked data that contained dates of birth, national insurance numbers, bank account details and salaries of nearly 100,000 employees. The information was sent to various newspapers. He was later sentenced to 8 years in jail. It costs Morrisons more than 2 million pounds to deal with the problem.

Internet Security
Despite the company’s efforts and Andrew Skelton being jailed, some 2000 current and former employees of the company have sued the company due to the leaked information claiming that the company had the responsibility of keeping such information confidential. Morrisons refused to accept liability for the actions of Andrew Skelton. The spokesman of the company also said the company was not aware of anyone who suffered financial loss from the breach.

In PwC’s report, it was noted that some of the Internet security incidents were as a result of giving low priority to security, poorly understood Internet security policies and lack of briefing company boards of security risks. Companies that had faced such problems suffered more security breaches compared to those that gave Internet security high priority, trained their staff on Internet security and briefed the board of the company about any security risks the company faces.

As Internet security threats increase due to human error, both small and large companies should focus on dealing with this Internet security threat first as it costs a lot of money to control the damage. After that, other Internet security threats can be focused on.

Facebook Blocks More Contents In India

In 2014, social media giant Facebook had announced that they blocked nearly 5,0000 content pieces from India during first six months of the year following requests by mostly government agencies.

According to India Facebook report for Government Request Report, the restriction of the pieces of content came about following requests law enforcement agencies of India and also the India Computer Emergency Report Team. The restrictions were done under local laws that proscribe criticism of the state or religion.

Facebook Apps

During his visit to the South Asian country in October 2014, Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder, said he was open to helping Narendra Modi, the new Prime Minister, to connect remote and distant villages to the internet.

In Facebook’s 2014 report that listed 83 countries all over the world, India led the world with 4,960 registered requests for regulating content. It was followed by Turkey and Pakistan which had 1,893 and 1,173 registered requests respectively.

India also recorded the second-highest requests by government to access user accounts. It had 5,958 such requests, behind the US which requested Facebook to access the accounts of 23,667 accounts.

Government requests on the rise

The Deputy General Counsel of Facebook, Mr. Chris Sonderby, wrote in November 2014 in a blog post that the data show that government requests for content and data had gone up by 24% worldwide compared to second half of 2013.

Sonderby added that the giant social media company was working to push nations for greater transparency and also to reform surveillance practices required to build the trust of people in the internet.

According to Facebook, it is common for governments to request for data on Facebook users as part of the official investigations.

Most of these requests are linked to criminal cases such as kidnappings or robberies. In most of these requests, governments seek basic subscriber information like name and sometimes length of service. Some requests have gone further to ask for actual account content or IP address logs.

“Every single request that we receive is subject to checks for legal sufficiency. It is a requirement that officials provide us with substantive description of factual and legal basis for their request. When we realize legal deficiencies or vague overly broad demands for information, we push it back,” read a statement from the company.

The company further added that even where they determine that local laws would force them to disclose information, they only share basic subscriber information.

Why the number of blocks is increasing in India

facebook content block request
In the same period of time last year, only some 4,960 posts were blocked in India. In 2015 however, this number has increased by almost three times. While Facebook states that government-requested content blocks have gone up globally by about 18%, the most likely reason explaining the massive surge in blocks of posts in India is due to the growing political unrest in the country.

In the data released by Facebook in its biannual Government Requests Report, India requested to restrict 15,155 pieces of content, three times the requests it made during the same period last year.

Scientists have even come up with a way of determining mathematically the virality-quotient of a post. This describes how information spreads, social aggregations and higher dimensional groups.

There are some 130 million monthly Facebook users in India, which is the highest number of users after the United States. Greater number of users means great quantity of posts. With this comes even more hate mongers and individuals peddling falsehoods and information. Sometimes these people just want the information to go viral.

Online Anonymity

This clampdown on information by government agencies in India may lead to people resorting to online anonymity. Online anonymity is where users browse the internet without their identities being revealed. Online anonymity provides layer of protection for individuals’ privacy. Online anonymity lets individuals express their views and ideas without fear of being judged. This phenomenon of online anonymity is very common in Russia where the government really checks what people say over the internet. Online anonymity is also a vital tool for free speech.

This is the third time that Facebook is releasing the report since its reception way back in 2013, and in the three years, India has been topping the list of content removal request.

Global Internet Freedom Has Been declining

Freedom on the Net 2015 Report by Freedom House

The annual report by Freedom House, an independent government watchdog, indicates there are setbacks as far as Internet anonymity is matter of concern. The setbacks were highly noticeable in the Middle East, contrary to admirable gains witnessed in the “Arab Spring.” The non-profit advocacy group found declines in online freedom of expression in thirty two countries of the sixty five that were assessed since June 2014, notable declines being witnessed in France, Libya and Ukraine. Freedom on the Net 2015 report shows that 61% of the world’s population that lives in countries characterized by criticisms of the government, military or ruling family is subjected to online censorship while 58% of the population lives in countries where bloggers are jailed for taking to social platforms to share content on political, social and religious matters. For instance, Thailand was noted to be one of the worst offenders of online freedom, and its extremely strict lese majeste laws forbid anyone to insult the monarchy.

Man Hand with Laptop
According to the latest report, many governments are increasingly censoring content from opponents especially on social platforms. These governments have gone to an extent of pressuring service providers such as Google, Twitter and Facebook to delete sensitive content. They are also piling pressure on individuals and private sector to remove or delete offensive content rather than filtering and blocking. They are trying to convince such persons to delete the content instead of blocking them due to the fact that online users are becoming more technologically savvy every minute hence able to circumvent any state-imposed blocks by using Internet anonymity tools. Freedom House notes that out of the 65 countries assessed, 14 countries passed laws over the past one year to enhance electronic surveillance. The report further notes that French citizens were among the most affected after new restrictions on online content were imposed. The country introduced a new surveillance law, further dampening Internet anonymity of its citizens. While online users strive to have Internet anonymity, a need that has seen them become more adept when it comes to evading website blocks and national firewalls, the governments on the other side have responded by increasing restrictions for the use of Internet anonymity tools and encryption technologies. China is a good example after it passed a law that requires telecom providers and ISPs to install “back door access” to all encrypted devices and traffic.

France came up with sweeping legislation that requires telecommunications providers and carriers to install “black boxes” to enable the government collect and analyze metadata on their respective networks. Libyans also had their online freedom highly compromised, with Freedom House citing that there is a troubling rise in violence against independent bloggers, escalating costs of mobile phone services, new political censorship cases and rising prices of Internet services. Ukraine is another country identified by Freedom House to be a culprit in disrespecting Internet anonymity of its citizens. In Ukraine, any citizen who posted content critical of the government policies was prosecuted. Additionally, there was increased violence especially from pro-Russian paramilitary groups fighting against online users posting pro-Ukraine content in eastern regions. These harsh punishments imposed on critics both in Ukraine have been linked with the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia. The annual report further pointed out that a sizable number of countries in the Middle East as well as North America, where the “Arab Spring” emergence back in 2010 and 2011 was partially aided by social media activists, were cracking down on any government critic.

Freedom House ranked China as the worst abuser of Internet freedom in 2015. Chinese officials continue to squeeze the Web including cracking down more than 200 citizens for their online activities while at the same time blocking access to several virtual private networks (VPNs), used for Internet anonymity and bypass firewalls. Syria and Iran came in second and third in the list of the worst offenders of online freedom. Looking back to previous years, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe and Vietnam were rated among the governments that suppressed freedom of speech, but it seems this year things are slightly different. The expansion that has been enjoyed by the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq as well as its brutal use of social media in tracking and punishing opponents has been noted to be a driving force pushing the Middle East to become a region that doesn’t grant online freedom to its people.

Quick Stats

Global Map
With more than 3 billion people having access to Internet, here is a simple breakdown of how their Internet anonymity or online freedom is violated.

61%: Live in countries that subject criticism of the government, military or ruling family to strict censorship.

47%: Live in countries where citizens were attacked or even killed for their online activities.

58%: Live in countries where ICT users or bloggers were sent to jail for sharing sensitive content on political, social & religious issues.

45%: live in countries where activities such as posting satirical videos, cartoons or writings can lead to censorship or jail term.

Some Good News

Although the general curve seems to be in favor of strict online censorship rather than Internet anonymity, 15 of the 65 countries that were surveyed registered some improvements. One notable nation is Cuba, which showed greater tolerance towards online criticisms of Havana by Cubans. Additionally, Cuba also reduced the cost of Internet access by half.

Is Anonymous Social Media At Risk?

Internet anonymity isn’t necessarily associated with Tor network or VPN which both hide your IP address, location and your identity. It also means being able to open social media profiles without revealing your real name, as it was in the early days of internet before Facebook, YouTube, G+, and even MySpace.

Social Media
Ever since Facebook made it obligatory to use your real name, Internet anonymity has become questionable. According to a national survey, 86% of Internet users are taking steps in securing anonymity for themselves.

Although some believe that Internet anonymity provides security and comfort for people, in most cases people use it to misbehave, bully other people, troll across the internet, threat and even engage in criminal activities. So, Internet anonymity seems to be a double-edged sword.

And while Facebook still insists to use real names, Twitter and Reddit and similar sites are a bit more flexible and users are not required to use their real names; the main consequence being significant increase of bullying on these platforms as opposed to Facebook. Even Twitter’s CEO agreed that “we suck at dealing with trolls and abuse.”

New wave of concern for Internet anonymity has formed around people-rating app Peeple, and shutting down the anonymous app Secret. Peeple app is something like Yelp for people. What this means is that anyone who knows your name, phone number or your Facebook account can open a profile on your behalf and rate you! You don’t even have to be aware of it. Moreover, the reviews are permanent.

So, if you’ve kept yourself off the radar all this time, you will no longer be in control of your anonymity; sooner or later we’ll all end up on Peeple, all set to be reviewed.

Perhaps that’s not such a bad idea, after all. I mean, when buying a car or a cell phone, we do quite a bit of research on the particular device and on the company that sells it; so, why not do the same when picking new friends or partners?! The app became controversial even before its release.

Speaking about Internet anonymity, its advantages and disadvantages, in her book “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace” Danielle Citron gives a list of all possible harassment crimes on the web and possible solutions to counter it. None of the solutions questions justification of Internet anonymity. Citron believes that bullies occur equally on anonymous and non-anonymous social media sites.

She proposed a couple of solutions such as clear guidelines, better reporting system, well presented explanations for punishments, and of course allowing users themselves to reinforce good or bad behavior.

One of the attempts in preserving Internet anonymity was project Rooms. It was based on IRC chat rooms, where people could openly discuss certain topics in a room, and messages are approved by moderators. Strangely enough, the project was unsuccessful and gained just a handful of users.

Secret anonymity app was another project that failed in its mission to allow users to openly exchange their opinions. The app was shut down by the founder himself, David Byttow, and the money, $35 million, returned to the investors. Byttow said it was the hardest thing in his life, but he didn’t have any other choice, since the network was growing fast and getting out of control. He was especially dumbstruck when he realized just how many trolls and abusers are out there. Whisper and Yik Yak also struggle with bullies but they are still holding online.

Perhaps the most worrisome thing considering Internet anonymity is the recent event that took place in Sidney. An anonymous threat was posted by user on the message board called 4chan. He threatened to shoot at college and campus. Police and the anti-terrorist squad were alarmed and the next few days they spent patrolling the area; fortunately, it turned out that the threat was a fake one.

Police later said that even though they believed the threat wasn’t genuine, they treated it like it was. Most of the students were not very upset about the threats; they believed it was made by a fellow student who just wanted to ditch classes and enjoy a beautiful day. But some of them were very upset realizing that similar things happen at some colleges across America, where shooting attacks occur relatively often.

One thing’s for sure – even though Internet anonymity provide fertile ground for abuse and even criminal activities; more and more people are becoming advocates of Internet anonymity and believe that there are other ways to secure safe communication among people.

Some Types Of Internet Security Threats

The world we are living in is making a fast evolution to digitize everything. Books, weight loss programs, music, even parties and classes are all now available online in digital form. Indeed, the technology for all these applications continues to innovate and grow exponentially fast.

Needless to say, with this raging growth in the online industry follows a rapidly increasing number of cyber security threats. As every aspect of our lives turns digital, we are in turn becoming more and more open to having our files compromised, our privacy violated, and our information stolen. Government and hackers alike are to blame, because Internet surveillance is now pervasive in almost every country, despite public protest over such bad measures.

There is a host of obvious threats to your Internet security and here’s what online users should watch out for.


Ransomware is a sickening form of malicious software, which infects victims’ computers, locks up all, or some documents and asks for payment in exchange for them to regain access. Cryptolocker – the most infamous example of ransomware – was earlier this year dealt as huge blow when several people were arrested by federal officials for allegedly being involved in the scam.

And, although that crackdown was a great step, Internet security experts say the software is still spreading and it is now moving to new soft targets. Intel’s McAfee Labs, has managed to track a rapidly rising number of ransomware attacks, especially on mobile devices.


Possibly scarier: Internet security experts generally recommend that people back up their data in order to avoid the pain of losing access to their documents and files, however, McAfee has warned that new ransomware strains might attempt to target securely stored login info for cloud backup service and lock up the files too.

Consider backing up your documents to external hard drives to avoid ransomware threats. Just like with many other kinds of malware, this one is also often unknowingly downloaded when consumers click on links or open email attachments.

However, if you at any one time you become a victim of ransomware attacks, please avoid the temptation of paying up. There is absolutely no guarantee the villains will actually free up your files, and funding Internet security crooks’ activities only worsens up the matter.

Malicious messages that certainly seem like the real thing

Cybercriminals mostly deliver malicious software or obtain personal information by tricking their victims with messages that really seem as legitimate. Download the attachment or click the link, and you have unintentionally infected your mobile device or computer.

Such malicious e-mails were once unsophisticatedly done: poor grammar, broken images, or other hints that the messages were not really coming from your mom or the bank. However, cybercriminals now have advanced increasingly and are now using toolkits’ at their disposal to help them build very truthful-looking malware and messages.

They can direct a tool at any website, say a school, and it scrapes the actual school site’s language, logo, language, everything. Internet security experts used to tell consumers to stay clear of things that look suspicious, but these advanced toolkits’ can trick even sensitive customers. It is all turning out to be a more professional game that is likely to hurt many Internet users globally.

It is a highly sophisticated spin on old attacks, and it’s worrying that consumers are always wrongfully assuming they shall be able to know any malicious e-mail. The best thing you can to do remain safe from this type of Internet security threat is by simply not clicking on links coming from any e-mail.

If that is really too extreme for you, then be sure to hover your mouse over hyperlinks ensure they are taking you to the site they claim to be. And, if it appears even remotely wrong or strange, do not click the link. Try to exercise extreme caution whenever you are dealing with any attachments as well.

Targeting the “one percent”

Although cybercriminals may target a particular government or company entity, they generally don’t spend much time targeting a single person because the possible financial pay-off is not worth their time. Nonetheless, wealthy consumers are the exception, according to a recent Internet security research carried out.

Cyber Crime

It is highly expected that cybercriminals will have a more active eye towards the wealthy – the one percent. If a criminal thinks he/she can get a serious amount of money from a victim, he/she can decide to spend a lot of time on a personalized attack.

Even if you are part of the 99%, Internet security experts warn that consumers must desist from giving out information like employers, birthdays, as well as other bio details on Facebook , Twitter, and other sites. Crooks can be devious about leveraging this info.

Cyberwar and Espionageware

What Internet security experts have been terming as a “Cyber Cold War” for quite some time is now ramping up very quickly. Indeed, many nations and states both strong and weak see cyber-attacks, as the best weapon to counter United States’ global influence.

Therefore expect an increase in malicious software being used by governments to spy on the activities of certain individuals. Amnesty International recently released an antispyware tool, which scans devices for surveillance software belonging to governments.

Overall, Internet security experts predict the number of cyber-attacks will go up in 2015 and beyond. It is scary stuff, but there is hope that public awareness and conversation will as well increase. Of course, that will not happen overnight, but in order to make changes a conversation will have to be started.

In the meantime, there are a handful of best practices that can protect average persons from a host of vulnerabilities likely to face them. First, ensure to keep your antivirus software always updated, never store sensitive personal info online or on e-mails, use strong passwords, never sign into accounts when using Wi-Fi networks that are public and exercise extreme caution when downloading attachments or clicking links.

Tor Anonymity Apps On iOS 9

Internet anonymity services are becoming increasingly popular as more and more people seek privacy from online surveillance by governments, corporations that sell your data to marketing organizations, identity thieves, and others. Internet anonymity is currently a very controversial issue as policy makers, corporations and individuals face off over privacy issues and the legitimacy of government information gathering activities that infringe on individual rights. Cases of government snooping and data mining continue to raise tempers as more and more people agitate for the right to have personal information kept securely and not shared with third parties. With European and American governments seeking to draft and implement laws that will affect the future of encryption and online privacy, services that offer Internet users the chance to browse anonymously continue to attract more and more customers. And the technologies involved are becoming even more sophisticated by the day.
Tor and Apple Logo
iPad and iPhone owners using Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 9 are set to receive free Tor anonymity apps at a later, as yet undisclosed date. Privacy app developers are driving an initiative known as iCepa which seeks to increase online privacy and security for people using mobile devices to access the internet. Among the more popular Internet anonymity services is TOR. TOR is an acronym for The Onion Router, which was initially developed as a router for the US Navy to help protect government communications. Today, Tor is a nonprofit organization involved in the research and development of privacy tools for Internet users. It is used by the military, law enforcement agencies, journalists and individuals who need to browse the net anonymously.

TOR and other privacy apps work by encrypting a user’s Internet traffic and hiding IP addresses and other identifying information in order to protect the user’s identity. It moves your traffic across its various servers and encrypts it so that anyone trying to find out your identity will see traffic on the Tor network rather than tracing it back to you. Internet anonymity is a contentious issue with supporters and opposers in both camps. People support Internet anonymity for several reasons. One is freedom of speech, especially for persons living under autocratic regimes. Internet anonymity provides a platform for journalists and other whistleblowers to report what is happening under oppressive governments so that the rest of the world can help. Further, Internet anonymity helps people to research and discuss sensitive subjects without fear of discovery. Finally, anonymity can help to prevent cybercrimes such as bullying and stalking. People opposing anonymity cite several reasons. First, the reports by law enforcement agencies that anonymity encourages crimes like drug trafficking and child pornography. Secondly, hidden identities can help to propagate hate crimes and racism as it is difficult to trace back to the original source of such material where a website is anonymous. Finally, anonymity increases cases of scamming, email fraud and identity theft.

Governments and IT firms are currently engaged in a standoff about encryption with firms like Twitter and Dropbox launching a petition that urges President Obama to support encryption as a way of supporting freedom of speech. Further, firms and individuals alike are raising concerns about proposed laws by congress that if passed, could make it legal for the government to compel an organization to give up an individual’s personal data for “security” purposes.
available on apple store logo
The new privacy apps therefore could not have come at a better time. The system wide apps which will be available via Apple’s app store, will give owners of iPads and iPhones access to the Tor anonymous service as part of Apple’s strategy to protect user privacy. A few days ago, Apple app store removed over 250 iOS apps that were using a third party advertising SDK to mine customer’s personal data and reroute it to Chinese servers. Apple privacy and security guidelines prohibit the collection and use of app store users’ personal data. Tor developers continue to work on the app in order to provide iOS 9 users with the best product.