“With more teens and young adults online than ever before, it’s crucial that we explain the risks posed by ransomware, bullying in online spaces, and the possibility of digital manipulation and misinformation aided and abetted by increasingly slick deepfake and AI technology.
“With a number of major elections coming up in 2024, the possibility of being duped by lies and faked video footage is stronger than ever. Consider that many adults continue to fall for so-called “cheapfakes” (crudely edited photographs and memes on social media), and that in many cases scammers don’t even need to reach for AI tools in the first place to achieve their objectives.
“This year’s electoral campaigns will be a heady mixture of malign interference campaigns, confidence tricks, and the ever present threat of ransomware and malware groups waiting to potentially take sides with their own unique brand of electoral interference.
“If we don’t want to see a repeat of the social engineering and malware dispensing tactics used over the last few years targeting the next generation of netizens, it’s up to us to help and encourage educators and those with a direct involvement with children’s learning to offer workable solutions to keeping them from harm online for both Safer Internet Day and beyond.”
“While we all hate passwords and know they’re a pain, they remain important. Even today we see major companies compromised because of bad password management by them or their people. Using unique passwords for every site (or at least every important site) is still one of the best things you can do to keep yourself secure. In addition to using unique passwords, using a multifactor authentication app is a key step in securing critical accounts,” said Christopher Budd, director, threat research, Sophos X-Ops.
The Sophos X-Ops’ Active Adversary Report found that in 2023, for the first time, compromised credentials were the number one root cause of attacks that lead to data theft and ransomware attacks, with over half (56%) of the attacks analyzed linked to a name/password sign-information that wound up in unfriendly hands. That’s a 26% jump from 2022 to 2023.
“It’s also important to remember the power of ‘no.’ The best way to protect your data and information is to not give it away in the first place. Just because a site asks you for your birthday, for instance, doesn’t mean they need it, or they’re entitled to it. If a site or service doesn’t have your information, they can’t lose it or accidently disclose it.
If you do just those two things, you’ll be a long way towards keeping yourself safer online,” added Budd.
Additional Tips to stay safe online include:
- Using caution when clicking on links
- Keeping all applications, apps, and devices up to date
- Investing in good security software
- Treating all unsolicited communications (email, phone calls, texts) as suspicious
This Safer Internet Day, let’s champion a cyber landscape grounded in awareness and resilience. Your digital safety is paramount, necessitating a proactive approach to cybersecurity – update passwords regularly, employ multi-factor authentication, and stay informed about evolving security practices. Be discerning about the information you share, recognizing the value of personal data and actively safeguarding it against phishing attempts. Extend vigilance to devices, ensuring they’re fortified with the latest security updates, and advocate for a secure digital environment in both personal and professional spaces. Embrace education on emerging cyber threats, participating in workshops and webinars to stay informed and empowering yourself and others to make informed decisions online. As we celebrate Safer Internet Day, let’s collectively contribute to a digital future where security, awareness, and responsibility form the pillars of a robust online ecosystem, creating a safer internet for all.
Rob T. Lee, Chief Curriculum Director and Faculty Lead at SANS Institute
As we mark another Safer Internet Day, it’s imperative we reflect on the evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats, including the emerging role of AI, and reaffirm our commitment to safer digital spaces. The past year has underscored the sophistication and frequency of cyber attacks, targeting not just large organizations but individuals as well. The rise of ransomware, phishing scams, misinformation campaigns, and AI-driven threats reveals a pressing need for robust cybersecurity measures and digital literacy.
At the SANS Institute, we’ve observed a significant uptick in the adoption of multi-factor authentication, encryption, and cybersecurity awareness training, which are positive strides toward mitigating risks. However, as digital technologies, especially artificial intelligence, become increasingly integrated into our daily lives, securing our digital footprint becomes a shared responsibility.
Safer Internet Day serves as a reminder of the collective action required to foster a secure, respectful, and resilient digital environment. We encourage individuals and organizations to prioritize cybersecurity education and invest in the necessary tools and practices to protect their digital assets and personal information, with a keen eye on the implications of AI.
Let’s take this opportunity to empower ourselves and others with the knowledge and resources to navigate the digital world safely. By working together, we can build a safer internet for everyone.
3 tips for Safer Internet Day:
1. Educate Yourself on AI Threats: Stay informed about the ways AI can be used in cyber threats, including deepfake technology and AI-driven phishing attacks. Regularly update your knowledge of cybersecurity trends and threats through reputable sources like the SANS Institute, cybersecurity blogs, and online courses. Understanding the capabilities and tactics of AI-driven threats is crucial for recognizing and avoiding them.
2. Implement Strong Password Practices: Use complex passwords and enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible. Consider using a password manager to store your passwords securely. Multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security by requiring two or more verification methods to gain access to your digital accounts, significantly reducing the risk of unauthorized access.
3. Regularly Update and Patch Software: Keep all your software, including operating systems, applications, and antivirus programs, up to date. Cyber attackers often exploit vulnerabilities in software to gain unauthorized access. Regular updates and patches fix these vulnerabilities, making it harder for attackers to penetrate your digital defenses.